Digital exhibit uses the city as a laboratory

Luckily I Had the World Around Me is the intriguing title of Glendon Gallery’s latest exhibition of photos by Montreal artist Josée Pellerin, curated by Marc Audette, a professor of digital and analogue photography in York University’s Department of Visual Arts. Twelve large digital prints comprise this show, all but two of them displaying two joined images, one interior and one exterior. Superimposed on each print is a brief text representing the artist’s thoughts and reactions to the images on display.

Right: The palace where visitors see Heaven, Purgatory and Hell, by Josée Pellerin

The exhibition fosters a contemplative mood, allowing the viewer to take in the binary nature of each piece and to reflect on the words associated with it. The photos also convey a sense of mystery – something happening just beyond the images – events or situations hinted at by the artist’s words, although no human figures appear on any of the artwork.

“I chose public spaces as my subjects, because I am greatly affected by them," says Pellerin. “They make me feel at home.” She says that she enjoys looking at the world, almost as an outsider, and uses the city as a laboratory, walking her way to scenes that catch her imagination. Pellerin says she brings in the human element through the texts which talk about the place and what might be happening there. 

Pellerin says the time-space disconnect is further emphasized by the fact that the text may not actually be related to the picture it inhabits, but her poetic words evoke a mood that is appropriate for each. “I enjoy this surrealist, almost Dadaist aspect of this collection," remarks Pellerin, adding that she is preoccupied by the fictional elements of human experience as contrasted with reality. “There is a 21st-century obsession to tell it all and we are always exhorted ‘to do’." She says these works represent her reaction against these imperatives, her effort to fictionalize her world.

Above: Josée Pellerin with two of her photo creations

Pellerin takes high-resolution digital photos, which are printed on polypropylene boards mounted on a layer of plexiglas. Each work is light, unframed, without any distractions from the actual images. Their surfaces are smooth and shiny, offering an invitation into fictional, timeless spaces. “I like the element of doubt in these pictures, the uncertainty of what is real and what is taking place," Pellerin adds. Throughout the exhibition, Pellerin’s artistic origins as a painter are reflected in her preoccupation with colours, textures, layers and moods. 

Left: No other city will make her dream…she will never leave this one, by Josée Pellerin

The title of the show is a personal statement that the artist says reflects the joy at the world around her, of observing from the outside yet being part of it all, of opening up to the experiences it offers and reaching out through her creative impulses.

Pellerin took the photos on display during several trips to distant locations: Rome, Buenos Aires, Paris and elsewhere. After collecting them, she paired interiors with exteriors – often not related to each other – and then added her poetic observations: the emotions and reflections these images elicited from her. This collection is also included in her recently published book with the same title , Heureusement qu’il y avait le monde autour de moi  / Luckily I Had the World Around Me, published by Les Éditions J’AI VU, displaying many of this artist’s other work as well. Pellerin lives and works in Montreal, where she teaches visual arts and media at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM).

Right: A Buenos Aires restaurant inside and outside, by Josée Pellerin

Heureusement qu’il y avait le monde autour de moi / Luckily I Had the World Around Me is shown at the Glendon Gallery until Feb. 8. The gallery’s next show is the Glendon Annual Student Exhibition, opening on Feb. 26.

The Glendon Gallery is dedicated to contemporary Canadian art and the promotion of Canadian artists. For gallery hours and future exhibitions, visit their Web site at

Submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny.