Republic Gallery


In Search of Fire

November 19, 2016 - January 14, 2017

Opening reception: Saturday, November 19, 2-4pm

In Search of Fire is a new body of work incorporating painting, drawing, and video. This project explores stock and mediated images of house fires, and how their circulation online creates new and unexpected narratives. Of particular interest are images found on meme-generator websites or other media sharing platforms that provide blanket representations of disaster. The images may begin as documents of real life events, but are later appropriated into different contexts that blur the line between a perceived and constructed reality.

One's impression of a house fire can vacillate along a sliding scale of urgency. A burning building may be identified as a highly charged, personal loss, particularly if it is associated with one's own home. However, documentation of house fires is also ubiquitous and frequently subsumed within an ever-shifting stream of catastrophic events. Questions arise in terms of what determines the magnitude of loss, and how the home is defined or re-envisioned when placed under threat.

The source imagery for this exhibition stems from internet images of house fires collected from different communities. Each image was tracked online to investigate its original source. The exhibition is divided into two parts: one series referring to representations of actualized events, and another without a singular or conclusive origin. The division and elision between the two series considers the mutability of images within the public sphere. What permits one image to proliferate and take on new meaning, and another to remain situated within its original context? The painting process and inversion of imagery slows the act of looking, to reconsider what is placed before the viewer.

Gwenessa Lam is a visual artist and educator. Her artwork stems from interests in perception and the compression of time and memory within images. Lam received her BFA from the University of British Columbia and MFA from New York University. She has taught at New York University, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, the University of British Columbia, and is currently on faculty at the Alberta College of Art and Design. She has attended residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Skowhegan, MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Banff Centre. Her work has been exhibited at the Bronx Museum of Art and the Queens Museum of Art in New York.

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