Craft is in short supply these days. The investment of time it requires – and the need to continually perfect the skills of that craftsmanship – are not for the weak of heart. In celebration of the passion for craftsmanship and the important value it has in a fast-paced, technological world, I have spent the past two years creating ILLUMINATION, as a way to celebrate and illuminate the imagination and personalities of Canada’s literary community.
The three Toronto venue exhibitions will open this Fall 2015: at the Gardiner Museum, International Festival of Authors, Harbourfront Centre and the Toronto Reference Library.
The ILLUMINATION – “Portraits of Canadian Literature” exhibition at the Gardiner Museum, presents 12 hand-engraved crystal sculptures which have been inspired by passages based upon the theme of light from 12 literary works by such noted authors as Margaret Atwood, Joseph Boyden, Leonard Cohen, Emma Donoghue, Lawrence Hill, Yann Martel, Anne Michaels, Rohinton Mistry, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Miriam Toews and Jane Urquhart. (the literary passages were chosen by The Writers Trust of Canada Advisory Board.) The ILLUMINATION – “Portraits of Canadian Authors” exhibitions will present projected photographic installations of 150 black and white author portraits, at both the International Festival of Authors, Harbourfront Centre, and at the Toronto Reference Library.
The multi-disciplined project has taken two years and required over 20,000 km of travel, 22,500 digital photographs being taken, as well as the creation of twelve one-of-a-kind crystal art pieces, combining delicate technique of stippling, (a 17th century technique similar to mezza tint) – and deep intaglio diamond wheel-engraving.
“The Gardiner is delighted to be unveiling twelve luminous new crystal works of art by Mark Raynes Roberts that uniquely celebrate both Canada’s rich literary culture and the beauty of human craftsmanship and creativity,” says Kelvin Browne, Executive Director and CEO of the Gardiner. “Seeing Mark’s work in the context of the Gardiner collection really illustrates the deep affinity between glass and ceramics in terms of history, design, and technique.”
As creator of the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Award for Non-Fiction, I was interested in investigating the authors’ creative process, determination and contribution to cultural life in Canada and around the world. This personal interaction meeting with the authors provided the inspiration for me to celebrate the Canadian literary community at a time when authors and publishers face the challenge of redefining their industry due to technological changes. I also felt there was parallel between the time required for their craft of writing as there was my own engraving, and my hope was to draw attention to the importance of this dedication and passion in a world that is increasingly automated and divorced from the touch and nuance of human craftsmanship – the very thing that helps define us as a species.
Literature is an art of illumination. Every author wants to shed light on some truth no matter what form the writing takes: fiction or non-fiction. Writing is a pursuit of knowledge and understanding; the desire to bring attention to a story that needs to be told, whether it be about a person, an imagined life, an issue, a part of our history or the human condition. This is why literature is important. We’re not only enriched by it; we’re connected to it.
Photography has always played an integral role as both an informer and catalyst for my crystal interpretations, so creating this portrait collection of authors, was an opportunity to have a “visual conversation” with each author through the camera lens. It was a privilege and enlightening to share so many wonderful conversations about the creative process. I am delighted that both the International Festival of Authors and the Toronto Reference Library, have agreed to showcase the portrait photography this Fall 2015.
“We’re pleased to be able to complement the crystal art sculpture exhibit at the Gardiner Museum with a special display of the ILLUMINATION photographic collection here at Harbourfront Centre during the 36th edition of the International Festival of Authors this fall. That Mark has brought together photography, sculpture and literature in such a moving and beautiful way is astonishing. And it’s wonderful to see so many past Festival participants as his subjects,” commented Geoffrey Taylor, Director, International Festival of Authors.
“In 2015, Toronto Public Library celebrates the opening of its 100 branch. As we welcome a line-up of international luminaries to the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon stage this fall, it befits our cultural mandate to showcase the world class array of contemporary authors that Canada is home to, so beautifully portrayed in this collection,” said Yvonne Hunter, manager of cultural and special events programming for Toronto Public Library. The Library will project the images in the Cube and Atrium at the Toronto Reference Library and on digital screens at 13 branches.
My hope is that the ILLUMINATION project will be viewed by the Canadian public as an inclusive project reflecting the diversity of our country. When I started the project I had no idea it would grow as it has, and certainly never thought I would photograph 150 authors in the time I have. The 150 portraits in the ILLUMINATION photographic collection is my gift to the country I came to in 1982, which will celebrate its 150th Anniversary in 2017. In this spirit, the project celebrates both emerging and established authors from all genres of writing, ethnic background and gender, often traveling to the authors’ homes to photograph them in their places of work and inspiration.
Canada is a country known for its modesty. But we have every reason to feel proud of our literary excellence and to herald our Canadian authors whose words of truth, solace and wisdom are read by people from around the world. ILLUMINATION is about bringing into focus portraits of those who write the words in silence and in solitude.
PORTRAITS OF CANADIAN LITERATURE – Crystal Art Sculpture
Gardiner Museum, Toronto – Oct 26 – Nov 11, 2015
PORTRAITS OF CANADIAN AUTHORS – Portrait Photography
International Festival of Authors, Harbourfront Centre – Oct 22 – Nov 1, 2015
PORTRAITS OF CANADIAN AUTHORS – Portrait Photography
Toronto Reference Library – Oct 11 – Nov 1, 2015