About Me

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MICHAEL SCHREIER Michael Schreier is a professional artist and photographer who has dedicated his considerable professional career to the celebration of both the public and private hero. Recent work includes Storyteller, Waiting for Words at the Ottawa Art Gallery, curator Emily Falvey, 2009, and the curating of the exhibition Dave Heath, A Heritage of Meaning, 2013 at the Ottawa Art Gallery. Selected works are represented in both public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, the National Archives Photography Collection, the Agnes-Etherington Art Centre, the Canadian Portrait Gallery, Visual Studies Workshop, (Rochester, New York), Light Works Workshop, Syracuse New York, Carleton University Art Gallery, and the University of Ottawa Library Special Collections.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

1. An Introduction to Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura is dedicated to Dave Heath and Jim Borcoman

Post #1

An Introduction to Camera Obscura

(Camera Obscura is dedicated to Dave Heath and Jim Borcoman)

(cursor on photograph, for detailed viewing)

  For some time I have been considering writing a blog exploring photographic vision, thought and the continuity of knowledge. The privilege of a productive career as an artist and professor in the visual arts department at the University of Ottawa has encouraged a perspective grounded in Art History, and Photography; with a deep appreciation for painting, music, poetry and philosophy. While providing critical thinking for a student's understanding and appreciation of their vision, our discussion focused on an individual's obligations in the pursuit of a personal language. Supported by formal constraints, they addressed inherent possibilities for future direction. Personally, I am grateful for this time and our conversations as they have assisted me in nurturing a more comprehensive understanding of my own work.    

Brother and Sister
Vienna, Circa 1932

As an objective document the photograph reflects a moment in time: with quiet subtlety it may also provide an intuitive and penetrating subtext.

 Camera Obscura, a "room without clarity", of both entry and exit, (access to be granted), a metaphor suggesting a passage from one moment to the next, from one space to the next, a continuity to be discovered, rendering a palimpsest; in another context, A Room of One's OwnVirginia Woolf offers an interrogation for recognition within one's professional community; moreover, a discovery for one's perspective and immediate sense of place in history. She reflects upon an artist searching for a Room of One's Own, that her singular insight might encompass a lifetime of progressive thought. This blog accepts Virginia Woolf's challenge to embrace the mystery and grace of one's vision. 

 I discovered the photograph, Brother and Sister, Vienna, Circa 1932 of my mother and her brother in our family album in the late 70's. An unnamed photographer has provided a kindred moment. Considering this photograph over the years, I have come to realize that concerns explored in my professional practice emerge and are evident in this photograph. So what is there yet to be discovered?  It has afforded me a portal for thought. I also find myself in tandem with Roland Barthes. Shortly after his mother's death while studying a similar photograph, he mused that his family album might provide him some clarity for perhaps a lost coherency and sense of place. However, Barthes would discover an appreciation for the intrinsic value and curse of doubt. His tract Camera Lucida followed.

Page layout from artist's book, Tears for an Empty Desert,                                     Michael Schreier, 2006

In the mid 80's and for the first time, I arrived at my mother's previous address, entering a courtyard of her apartment complex. 
The new photograph would be juxtaposed with Vienna, Mother and Brother, Circa 1932. I had mistakenly assumed it to be the same courtyard. The tree behind my mother is, in the more recent photograph, located on the other side of the wall. However my vantage from an adjacent courtyard would prove fortuitous. One of numerous themes, evolving in my work, reflects on the metaphor and value of passage, that unattainable space or the memory of one's lost history. While offering traces of previous play, the density of this wall restricts me and the reader from any access to my mother's privileged childhood sanctuary. One may however discover other connections between the two photographs, underscoring a more contemporary reading and understanding.

                                             My parents and I leave Vienna for Canada in 1953.

This photograph begins a small family album assembled by my grandmother, photographs sent by my father hoping to retain some link to our "Heimat" (homeland), while harboring only little intention to return. My grandmother labelled this photograph "Im Schiff" 
(on the boat), left of center, lining up with my outstretched arm, perhaps searching for that last virtual embrace. Both my father and I seemingly cite our attention with the handwritten "Im Schiff" while my mother joyously smiles towards an unknown bystander. Neither is aware of the specter looming behind, so reminiscent of Christo's work, assemblages and constructions for the undisclosed and looming past. Further, I have always been intrigued by the strangers' choreographed dance of silence and distance, absorbed, living their lives totally disassociated from the confirmation of this moment.

As a reader of this moment, I am aware of the significance of my immediate history while accepting those present but unavailable musings of others. 

Page layout from artist's book, Tears for an Empty Desert,                                     Michael Schreier, 2006


                                                       Gnossienne 1/piano, Alessio Nanni
                                      A remarkable performance, with (reflected hands), recorded at 
                                      White Noise Factory Laboratory, November 23, 2009.

                                                       Digital Photograph, 2015/16 from series "Museum's Muse"
                                                                                  Michael Schreier

This introduction to Camera Obscura has offered one of many ways to read an image. To assume that an image includes a motif to be channeled, allows the author an entry to conversation. I would suggest that an artist, in concert with their work may address valuable implications leading to new directions. Implications can be of formal concern as well as of content and of ideas. This blog focuses on the development of ideas suggested in the musing of one's work. Further at a time of doubt the work may inform an artist's perspective, proposing a more coherent understanding. I have always encouraged this process as it reasserts continuity.


The next posting: The Snapshot, History Painting and A Storyteller, Waiting for Words 

                         Jacob Jordaens: As the Old Sing, So the Young Pipe. 1640               Michael Schreier: Family at Lunch, 1985
                         Collection of the National Gallery of Canada                                       Collection of the Artist                                        

( Now that the blog has been published I realize some may not know that selecting or tapping on a photograph / illustration enlarges the image and any text included. This is quite beneficial for text that may have been mastered in Photoshop and then entered in the blog. It is much clearer, allowing for a detailed viewing. Further, it is my intention to post a new entry on the Sunday of the next week.  The Snapshot, History Painting and A Storyteller, Waiting for Words will be published on
January 31, 2016.)