[This text about Lakeshore,an exhibition by John Armstrong and Paul Collins, was published as a one-page hand-out by Platform Gallery in Winnipeg for their 2004 exhibition.]
Winnipeggers use the expression "the lake" to mean any lake in Manitoba or Western Ontario, the term being roughly synonymous with "where I vacation in summer." John Armstrong and Paul Collins think of the lakeshore as a metaphor of a point of departure or arrival, a beginning, and an end. A lakeshore for them is a poetic and visual rumination on a metaphorical idea of the lakeshore as an urban or rural cultural site.
For the most part actual lakes are not depicted in Lakeshore photographs, however much unseen lakes may be implied by the repeated motif of a glass of water. Our own experience of Manitoban floods and freezing and the recent far-away tsunami disaster demonstrate how water can be smooth as glass or as jagged as broken ice, and how unstable and unpredictable shorelines can be.
Both artists are anglophones and bilingual French speakers, and both are painters and photographers. Armstrong lives in Toronto and Collins lives in France. I think the social and cultural status they share as anglophone francophiles (indeed, Collins, who is a Canadian, has also become a French citizen) is analogous to the hybridity of their painting/photographs.
My assertion will be denied by viewers who focus too closely on the deliberate disjuncture they might see as they look at thickly applied paint on photographic prints. Remember, the era of PhotoShop is the era of fake seamlessness, and so don't be too quick to associate visible oil paint on a silvery smooth print with intentional disharmony. In other words, when a French or English painted text is seen floating over a photograph, or a painted depiction of a water vessel is seen looming over a street, these varying textures do not denote incoherence. Such thoughts are left over from the days of high postmodernism when incoherence was fetishized, and such responses highlight our weakness for the invisible transitions of digital media like PhotoShop and our concomitant denial of materiality in a digital age. These images productively combine painting and photography as well as language and image to create an impure whole.