contemporary art / history of art

Artwork of the Month / June 2022

A portion of that which was once everything (De-siderare II)
Fiona Annis

Pigment print on colour sensitive paper
121 cm x 97 cm, framed
Edition 1/5

The image “A portion of that which was once everything (De-siderare II)” by Fiona Annis is a black and red “photograph”, which never saw the inside of a photo camera. Fiona exposed colour sensitive photographic paper in a darkroom to a blue bulb, flashing automatically, controlled by a timer. Meanwhile the artist manipulated the paper by gestures. Resulting is a developed picture, a kind of a luminogram. The previously registered blue light exposure, turned into a sensuous red colour and the less exposed areas are in a darker red colour gradient towards dark black.

In the presented work, the red surrounds the black, which is mostly in the centre of the image. A black triangle appears in the lower part, since the colour encounter is relatively sharp. It is standing on its tip. Another slightly curved black line repeats left hand, the edge. This sharpness disappears in the upper half and the colours overlap each other. In consequence, the black is less deep and the surrounding red is less bright. While the lower image part might promise a glimpse into a dark space, the look in the upper part is blurred.

Regarding the title “A portion of that which was once everything”, which is at the same time the name of a since 2018 ongoing project by Fiona, one might think of a triangle that once formed a rhombus in its extension. Or even the other way around, we could imagine a blurred overlapping of both colours for the whole picture. In any case, now we see only a section of a bygone entity.

However, the supplement of the title “De-siderare II” points to more directions. “Desiderare” in Italian means “to desire”. Is it about a longing of something partly lost? However, the hyphen between “De” and “siderare” refers to the Latin origin of the word: “siderare” means “star”. With regard to Fiona’s previous oeuvre, this is not surprising: astral themes are recurrent in her work. Already early in her career, she included photos of celestial objects and astral quotes from various authors in her artistic research. For her, there is a natural affinity between astronomy and photography, since both are dealing with light and time. Moreover, she is stimulated by the idea of the cosmos as common heritage, which could be appreciated every night by everyone, who is attracted by it, like a lot of people since ancient times to nowadays.

Besides the practical contemplation and exploration of the cosmos, the celestial objects influence our lives and cultures. Day and night as well as the seasons determine our biological rhythm. Calendars are regulating labour, leisure and celebrations since prehistoric times. In her “choreography” on the photographic paper in the darkroom, Fiona searched for an even broader connection to the universe, its rhythm or something else. Another luminogram from the series: “De-siderare I” shows an alternative expression of this presumed alliance.

The works under the title “De-siderare” were made during the pandemic. They were preceded by another series of the project “A portion of that which was once everything” named “Dis-astro” (ital. disaster) from 2019. It is another allusion to the cosmos, since it signifies “losing the stars”. Presuming that the disaster is on one hand a catastrophic, a destroying scenario but at the same time a possibility to create something new, Fiona intervened violently on the photographic paper. She crushed the sheets. In consequence, they entered the third dimension of sculpture and space. After flattening the pictures again, the artist exposed them to light. Resulting are luminograms, showing fractures and scars. At the same time, they might be mysterious landscapes from unknown worlds.

Even though, both series are underlining Fiona’s experimental approach to photography, the approaches differ. In opposite to the vehement interventions for “Dis-astro”, Fiona’s gesture for “De-siderare” was more delicate. She literally caressed the paper by soft and tender motions. It is the artist’s answer to the climate of fear, policing and despair during the pandemic and an expression of sensitivity and desire as a form of radical hope. The hope that the disaster could be resolved in a creative way? As the artist states, “it is a way of being and expression that I believe the world is desperately in need of right now.” Therefore, “A portion of that which was once everything (De-siderare II)” is not only the longing for the stars, but at the same time Fiona’s proposal and desire for “methods, practices, gestures and expressions that cultivate sensitive, tender, affectionate and also passionate ways of being”.


Fiona Annis

Born 1983 in Glasgow, Scotland, Fiona Annis made an apprenticeship at the studio of Nadia Myre, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Subsequently, she studied at the Concordia University of Montréal for her Bachelor Fine Arts. She continued her education at the Glasgow School of Art, United Kingdom and graduated with a Master of Research in Creative Art Practices. Then she returned to the Concordia University, acquired a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies in Society & Culture (studio arts, art history and philosophy) and was granted a postdoctoral fellowship at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

In her artistic practice, Fiona has a conceptual approach, in which she explores the nature of photography. She studies different kinds of effects of light and time on various support materials. Frequently starting from an abstract idea, she searches her expressions in diverse media. Forming chapters of long-term projects, the results could be very various, even though the point of departure was the same. Besides photography, the artist follows historic, literary and philosophic sources. Correspondingly, her oeuvre also includes text-based works, videos, installations, artist-books and even works in public space, namely in collaboration with “The Society of Affective Archives”, an artistic entity, co-founded by Fiona.

A central idea in her oeuvre is our cosmos with its celestial objects. This might be reflected in the depicted objects, which remind constellations of planets, galaxies and light reflexions. Moreover, the titles might refer to the stars. In general, Fiona questions about history, the present and possibilities for the future. At this, her proposals might not be directly visible, but be part of her artistic practice, the gesture during the creation.

Already during her studies, Fiona participated in many group exhibitions and had several solo exhibitions, mainly in Canada and Scotland. Later she increased her radius to the United States and Europe, notably to Italy. Moreover, her works were on view at international art fairs, fundraising exhibitions and participated in actions. Consequently, she is represented in several public and private collections and was often awarded. At the same time, she had numerous travel grants, inter alia the European Fine Art Travel Scholarship by the Brucebo Foundation in 2018 and a residency in Naples, where she worked on the collection of the MuSA – Museo degli Strumenti Astronomici di Capodimonte. Most recently, in May 2022, she had a solo exhibition at the Arte Fiera in Bologna. The Gallerie Riunite from Naples presented “It Slips and Falls and is Reborn”, which is the most recent chapter of her ongoing project “A Portion of That Which Was Once Everything”. Our artwork of the month of June 2022, the luminogram “De-siderare II” from 2021 was part of the show.

Fiona Annis lives and works in Montréal, Québec.