Newly renovated Glendon Gallery re-opens with Eye Candy 3

After moving to a new location and undergoing major renovations, the all-new Glendon Gallery in Glendon Hall, facing the Rose Garden, celebrated its official inauguration on Sept.27. And what better way to show its savoir faire and support of contemporary art than with its new exhibition under the intriguing title Eye Candy 3.

Eye Candy 3 is a collection of 13 large format, glossy photographs of familiar Canadian landscapes, easily recognized by citizens and tourists alike. The pictures depict locations such as Niagara Falls, Peggy’s Cove, the Banff Springs Hotel, Lake Louise, Percé Rock, and Tom Thomson’s shack, among others. However, the twist in Eye Candy 3 is that these are not photographs of the actual places: they are pictures of models created and photographed in lurid colours. The models were made of commonly used processed foods, such as pretzel sticks, mints, wafer cookies, processed meat, Cheez-Whiz, fruit roll-ups and candy floss.

 Above: Glendon Gallery curator Marc Audette (left);  Martine Rheault, director of
 Artistic & Cultural Affairs; the artist, Colwyn Griffith; and gallery assistant Cristina
 Raimondo in front of “Tom Thomson’s Cabin” during opening night at the
 Glendon Gallery

The creator of these pieces is Canadian photographer and sculptor Colwyn Griffith, whose credentials include an impressive number of previous works in Canadian, Japanese and American exhibitions, including Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Halifax, Tokyo and New York. Griffith trained in the 1990s as a commercial photographer at Montreal’s Dawson College, where he learned much about food photography for magazines and books. During this process, which included using special lenses, filters and lighting, he came up with a new idea: using different materials for his subject matter, foods like Jell-O and processed cheese. Using these eliminated the need for all those lenses and filters, because the materials themselves were glossy and brightly coloured, and some of them were particularly pliable and user-friendly. They were also readily available and financially accessible to a new artist.

Right: Griffith’s Niagara Falls

But beyond these practical considerations, Griffith became increasingly fascinated by society’s removal from real experiences, whether it relates to the foods we eat or the tourism in which we participate. His photos represent several levels of abstraction from reality. First of all, he chose not to visit the locations he wanted to portray, but rather requested pamphlets from provincial tourist offices. In this way, he says that his first contact with these spots mirrored the first experience of tourists at large: through a photograph in a promotional brochure. He then used these photos as the basis for building models of each location: models composed of processed foods which are also removed from nature by their consistency and ingredients.

“I was amazed to find that when I left these models for a week or two and then returned to them, they did not spoil or decompose,” says Griffith.  “After two weeks in my basement, the processed meat maintained its ‘freshness’. A frightening thought: what is this stuff really made of? Why are we eating such products and what do they do to our bodies?”

Left: Northern Lights

Once he made a complete model of a location, Griffith took the final step of photographing it and producing large, brightly coloured pictures of it. “It was fun to work with these materials. I have favourites: I like working with fruit roll-ups because they are flexible and easy to mold. I made the Northern Lights out of these and felt particularly satisfied with the results. Cotton candy is another easy material to work with, great for clouds and misty effects. Pretzel sticks were ideal for Tom Thomson’s shack, and then there was the processed meat for Hopewell Rocks: you could carve it any way you wanted.”

Griffith has included other learning experiences in his choice of materials and technique. He spent two years in Japan teaching English and, during this time, learned a great deal from Japanese gardens about miniaturization and materials such as pebbles and sand. Currently, he lives in Harlem in New York City, and works from a corner of his home which serves as a studio. Eye Candy 3 is not his most recent project; he has moved on from junk food to new topics in his exhibitions called Empire, Reclamation and Dollar Store. Why go back to a body of work which was first shown in 2003? “This is my first opportunity to display the entire collection in one show”, says Griffith. “I hope that it will be noticed, because Toronto is an important place for showing art.”

Eye Candy 3 continues at the Glendon Gallery until Oct. 27. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, noon to 3pm; Saturday, 1 to 4pm. Guided tours led by the curator take place each Tuesday, noon to 1pm.

This article was submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny