From the first time we saw Susan Dobson’s “Viewfinder” photographs we were reminded of Wanda Koop’s paintings and her combination of hard-edged shapes and landscape. We have paired Susan Dobson’s “Viewfinder” photographs with a selection of Wanda Koop’s paintings from her “Viewmaster”, “Sightlines” and “VIEW from HERE” series. Koop uses the abstract shapes as a compositional device and as a visual representation of technology. Dobson’s grids scanned from vintage pieces of glass, act as a reminder of the history of photography and act as a lens for which to view a common subject. In each work, regardless of artist, we are looking through a grid or hard-edged shape at an ethereal landscape beyond.
Through the process of putting the show together, interesting relationships emerged: The viewfinder corners in Koop’s two “Viewmaster” paintings echo the blacked out corners of Dobson’s “Speed Graphic View Camera” — Koop’s hot red bracket in “Sightlines (Brilliant Red)” leads you towards the curve of Dobson’s “Newman & Guardia’s” cracked glass — And the floating bars in Koop’s “Mauve Landscape – Yellow Bars” painting act as a similar compositional device as the glass used in Dobson’s “Rochester Empire State View Camera” photograph.
Susan Dobson’s photographs and installations have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across Canada, as well as in the United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, China, Germany, Spain, and Mexico. She has been a featured artist in photography festivals including CONTACT (Toronto, Canada), Fotoseptiembre (Mexico City), Le Mois de la Photo (Montreal, Canada), Bitume/Bitumen (Brussels), and FotoNoviembre (Spain). She was a contributing artist to the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad and her work was featured in the 2012 Biennial Builders at the National Gallery of Canada. Her work is in corporate and museum collections, including Centennial Gallery, the Art Gallery of Windsor, the Portland Museum, and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, an affiliate of the National Gallery of Canada.
Dobson’s photographs have been published in periodicals and newspapers, such as CV Photo, Photo Metro, The Globe and Mail, and Border Crossings. Her work has also been featured in Carte Blanche, a compendium of Canadian photography, and Massive Change by Bruce Mau. She has lectured on photography at institutions including the University of Waterloo, the University of Barcelona, and the National Arts Centre in Mexico City. Dobson is the recipient of two Gold National Magazine awards, and numerous awards and grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, including the K.M. Hunter award for visual arts. Most recently, she received a major grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for her project The Pictured Past and the Future Perfect: Shifting Tenses in Contemporary Photography. Dobson is Associate Professor in the School of Fine Art and Music at the University of Guelph.
Wanda Koop is one of Canada’s most distinguished and inventive artists. Her career spans three decades and includes over 50 solo exhibitions. From the very beginning of her career, Koop garnered critical acclamation for her work. Starting in the 1980s, she charted new directions for painting, pushing the boundaries of presentation and display with her all-encompassing installations. Over the last decade she has become recognized for incorporating poetic video work into her painting environments.
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 1951, the daughter of Russian Mennonite immigrants, Koop moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba as a young child and has called this remarkable city home ever since. While still a university student, Koop’s work was included in an exhibition in 1972 at The Winnipeg Art Gallery. She graduated in 1973 from the Lemoine Fitzgerald School of Art, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. Over the course of her career, she has been the recipient of numerous national and international awards in recognition of her achievements as an artist, such as the Canada Council “A” Grant, the Paris Studio, the Japan Fund Award, and the Manitoba Arts Council “A” Grant. In 2002 she was honoured with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and received her Doctors of Letters from the University of Winnipeg. She was granted her second honourary doctorate from the Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver in 2007. Her alma mater, the University of Manitoba, has recently awarded Koop with a Doctor of Law at Spring Convocation 2009. The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts elected her as a member in 2005. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, appointed Wanda Koop a member of the Order of Canada in 2006. This award was established in 1967 to recognize outstanding achievement and service in various fields of human endeavour. It is Canada’s highest honour of lifetime achievement.
Koop travels extensively as part of her working process and has exhibited across Canada and the USA, as well as in Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, Japan, India, China, and Italy (in conjunction with the 2001 Venice Biennale). Koop’s creative output has been consistently featured in national art publications such as Canadian Art and Border Crossings. In 1997, The National Film Board of Canada and Buffalo Gal Pictures produced a documentary on her life and work.
Her work is included in numerous private collections and is represented in several prestigious museum collections such as the National Gallery of Canada. In 2010, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada co-curated a 25 year survey of Koop’s work. The exhibition, “On The Edge of Experience,” featured an overwhelming body of work that critiqued how modes of technology impact nature.
Tenacious and exceedingly generous, Koop is also well known for her community work. In 1993 she co-created the Rotterdam Apartment Cooperative to help Canadian artists live and work in the Netherlands, with additional residences in Canada for Dutch artists. An integral member of the local arts community, Koop has made a measurable impact in Winnipeg. In 1998 she founded Art City as a storefront art centre. The goal of Art City is to bring together contemporary visual artists and inner-city youth to explore the creative process. Art City is not just about art, it is about belonging, it is about creating opportunities, developing life skills, enhancing self-esteem and self-respect within a disadvantaged community.