Updated: Jun 14
By Sophia Katzell, Content Development Research Assistant
In February AM&E Alum and Associate Director of Corporate Relations Miles Collyer hosted the second of three gallery talks on Meleko Mokgosi’s Imaging Imaginations exhibits in York University’s art gallery. Miles is a trained photographer with an interest in the intersection of photography and other artistic mediums, which he applied to his analysis of the exhibit.
As explained by Miles, the first impression of many viewers is not only the scale of the paintings, but the precision of the hyperrealism with which they are painted. Miles emphasized how photography exists at the core of this installation, as each of the painting queries photos as societal forces. In these paintings subjects are captured in a photographic style, with the loose brushstrokes that make up the backgrounds functioning similarly to how a photographer would blur the background of a portrait. This mimicry denotes the centrality of the photo to creating subjecthood. The subjects of these paintings are further "valorized by their creation in paint rather than print". Mile’s discussion explored how prints have a lower cultural currency when compared to paintings in terms of artistic significance. By presenting these subjects through painting with the hyperrealism of a photo, Mokgosi uplifted his subjects while still representing them in full detail.
Later on in his presentation Miles guided those in attendance through Mokgosi’s interest in Lacan’s mirror stage theory of human development as it pertains to this exhibit. Of Lacan, it was said that
It is the moment of recognizing our image that people are forever split between an internal, desirable, image of themselves that they strive toward throughout their life and the external sense of how they exist in the world. In essence, this stage of development illuminates the centrality of images to the process of constructing subjecthood, despite images being unreliable and prone to distortion (agYU 2023).
He connected this idea of the distorted ideal self to these portraits that in their hyperrealism point towards an ideal to be strived for, yet can be revealed to be a fabrication upon further examination.
Another element Miles drew attention to was the orientation of the paintings in the exhibit. Many of the paintings had been intentionally installed upside down, in a subtle critique of their speed of consumption. Paintings of such large scale take hours upon hours of dedicated labour to create, yet for the average viewer they can be viewed and moved on from in under 30 seconds. By orienting the paintings in such an unconventional way Mokgosi urges the viewer to spend longer taking in the painting and why it would have been shown in such a way. Mindfulness in consumption of the arts is an important takeaway not only for this exhibit, but for any others in considering the work and dedication needed to make them a reality.
Imaging Imaginations will be available for viewing at the Art Gallery of York University until June 10th. For more information on the exhibit and the gallery hours, visit the website here.