There is always something boundary-pushing, something unique and innovative happening at PAVED Arts. And hey, with an acronym that covers various multi-media formats – Photography, Audio, Video, Electronic, and Digital – it is no wonder!
PAVED is home to creative and performance work alike. The main floor of the building is a designated exhibit space. But take a walk upstairs and you will enter a large room where workshops, shows, and all kinds of art events take place. I saw a multidisciplinary performance in this space that combined audio and visual work, featuring some of the Saskatoon Symphony musicians—it was incredible. Further down the hall you will see a number of smaller rooms designed solely for artistic development. These creative ‘offices’ are open to PAVED members and offer ridiculously affordable rates for audio, video, and photo production and editing.
The current exhibition on the main level is called “Resolution”, and showcases three local artists responding to a common theme—the beauty, history, and the pure (and sometimes frightening) desolation of the Saskatchewan prairies. Sure, the Canadian nature art/poetry/writing thing may seem a bit overdone, but have you ever seen an up- close photo of a dead coyote on a Saskatchewan highway? Or a photo developed in coffee solution? These are the kind of out-of-the-box ideas you can expect to see at PAVED.
Karla Griffin, Stephanie Norris and Barbara Reimer make up
“Resolution” with David Lariviere, Artistic Director of PAVED acting as event curator. After seeing the exhibition, I arrange a phone chat with Barbara and we discuss the ways in which the artists’ work ties together, as well as her own personal journey with photography.
One thing that stood out for me in the exhibit was the vintage aesthetic: Barbara’s work had been developed in coffee solution while Stephanie’s collection of photographs, Saskatchewan Galaxies Volume I-IV, had been embossed onto rag paper. These print and display techniques gave the pieces in the gallery an aged appearance I appreciated immediately. For Barbara, the use of coffee solution “puts a veil on and kind of shows the negative again. You see ghosting of the edges,” which she clarifies as “the faded away bit.” (Oh! I like the term ‘ghosting’.) Barbara adds, “It gives the work an ephemeral quality”.
Barbara bounces back and forth between the old and new of photography—old- school film and modern digital. I tell her that from my own experience of using film to take pictures (ah, good ol’ disposable cameras), and now mostly using the camera on my smartphone, I can only imagine just how major this transition would have been for professional photographers working in the industry. She talks of how the digital process, though it certainly has its advantages, does not have the “physicality” that developing film-based photography does. Nor does it have the same originality: “Every print is an original with digital,” Barbara says. “You don’t have the physical negative anymore. You just reproduce a file”.
While conveying her love for antiques, Barbara tells me about the “mammoth” of a camera she uses that weighs in at 20lbs, not including the tripod. We talk of how even the process of shooting with an old camera is an entirely different experience than shooting with a smartphone or other high-definition digital camera. You become more connected with what you are shooting because you are less concerned with technology.
The argument over quality in ‘old versus new’ also comes up a lot in the world of professional photography; Barbara and I both agree that newer doesn’t always mean better. Some of my favorite art photography comes from Helmet Newton’s Polaroid series. But what can I say? I like nudity at its most raw. A real moment captured in a rough image is more appealing to me than a perfectly controlled digitization of that story.
Stop by PAVED Arts for a visit and be on the lookout for upcoming exhibitions, workshops, performances, and other events. This place hosts some of the finest creative and performing artists here in Saskatoon! And who knows, maybe one day there will be a show packed full of racy Polaroids!