• Cinematic Snapshots

    Date posted: November 5, 2009 Author: jolanta
    Vanitas is the newest body of photographic and video-based works by celebrated Canadian husband-wife collaborative team Nicholas and Sheila Pye. In Vanitas, the Pyes play with themes present in the art historical genre of still life painting to examine their own relationship.

    Andrea Pollan

    Vanitas is the newest body of photographic and video-based works by celebrated Canadian husband-wife collaborative team Nicholas and Sheila Pye. In Vanitas, the Pyes play with themes present in the art historical genre of still life painting to examine their own relationship. Carefully staged and precisely crafted, two photographs feature the symbolic fodder found in the vanitas painting genre: skulls, ivy, rotting fruit, and books. Nine portraits delve into issues of mortality, narcissism, the complex issues of youthful existence, the nature of being, and death. The artists take their married relationship and allude to the impermanence and illusion of togetherness. It is as though they are faking their deaths to consider their mortality and to repent to one another.

    The Pyes relentlessly blur the borders between their lives and their art as they tackle the highly charged yet poetic issues that arise from their own relationship. But theirs is not a self-absorbed biographical fascination. Rather, the relationship depicted in their bodies of work becomes emblematic of all things that can go wrong in a mutually dependent and suffocating relationship. The Pyes’s artistic output spans photography, film, performance, video, and installation, while acknowledging the profound influences of surrealism in film, narrative conventions in painting, 19th- and early-20th-century portraiture, and conceptual approaches to subject matter. Given this well-versed theoretical blend, they avoid prosaic performance art documentation, preferring to transform their photographs and films into works that cleverly reconfigure art historic antecedents. Additionally the finished works acknowledge their intrinsic aesthetic status as art objects.

    The Pyes have exhibited their work at museums such as The Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, France; Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Canada; The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada; The Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Canada; and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Their work has been screened in numerous international film festivals such as the Toronto International Film Festival, Canada; the Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland; and Les Rencontres Internationales in Paris, Berlin, and Madrid. Their work has also been exhibited internationally at numerous galleries including Curator’s Office, Washington, DC; Artcore / Fabrice Marcolini, Toronto; Alexia Goethe Gallery, London; Begoña Malone Gallery, Madrid; and Caprice Horn Gallery, Berlin, among others.

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