Artist Statement

The ideas

I make photographs and produce multimedia performances. In my work, I explore themes of vulnerability, risk taking, awkwardness and masculinity. I am interested in fakery, and one thing passing for another. I want the unreal to stand in for the real. I want the photograph of the painting to stand in for the painting. I want the photograph of a cloud to be me. I want the fake thing to be so fake that it has to tell the truth.

I have a compulsion to create a contrast between being something and acting something. I make paintings and then photograph them to ask the question “Are we looking at a painting, or a photograph” I am compelled to create situations of physical and psychological danger. I am interested in the difference between risk taking and being vulnerable. A number of years ago, I learned that my fear of looking stupid is bigger than my fear of dying, and I want to know who else thinks that way.

A formal device that emerges regularly is framing subjects to emphasize a feeling of awkward, tragicomic isolation.

Finding ways to go through fear without panicking is a game of self-control that I enjoy on an almost daily basis. This desire to live an intense experience, as seen through the acts of dressing in drag, BASE jumping, and boxing is translated directly into my art practice. I use these difficult, complex and sometimes cumbersome situations as mediums for direct and honest communications.

Overview of selected works

Recent works include multimedia productions and photographic projects such as:

B-Side Ellen Gallery – This is a series of photographs of the backs of paintings from the collection of the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery at Concordia University. The images are printed actual size, and are glued or stapled around commercial painting stretchers.

Force Majeure is an installation in which 5 monitors suspended from the ceiling depict people falling or flying. They struggle with their ability to control what is happening to them.

Family Workstations is a document of the shrines we build in our homes around the personal computer. I am drawing a loose connection between family and computer networks, but mostly this is a work for a future time when the physical form of computers no longer dominates the home space.

Art Photography is a photographic project inspired by the background information that accompanies an artwork when it is photographed badly. It was developed while in residence in Mexico City.

The exhibition Absolutely Fabulous is a series of photographic self portraits revealing the construction of masculinity through role playing. The projects BOX, and ASCII Fighter, are boxing performances created for Le Rencontre Internationale d’art Performance, in Québec City, 2006, and Digifest, in Toronto (2004), and explore themes of communication in challenging circumstances.

– Paul Litherland, 2016