Canada : Stan Denniston


Stan Denniston's considerable body of work reflects a consistent commitment to the photographic medium, though one would never find a stand-alone photograph. Instead, Denniston has cultivated several series of works that employ the photographic image as a component, either to be paired with another image or accompanied by text. In 1980, for his first solo exhibition in Toronto, Stan Denniston exhibited the Reminder series. The Reminder series paired photographs that corresponded through the act of recall: when Denniston encountered a place that reminded him of another place he'd been, he would photograph the site, then travel to the site that was activated in memory. He waited until he had photographed both locales before printing the images, thus avoiding any contrivance of likeness. The resulting diptychs captivate a range of similarities. This series marked the beginning of Denniston's examination of memory, or more specifically, his investigation of triggers and responses. In 1988, in the installation How to Read, Denniston presented 90 Cibachrome photographs pinned to the wall in a patchwork band around the gallery. The images variously featured architecture, road signs, gardens and monuments, clustered and arranged in such a way that invited the viewer to construct meaning by interpreting associations and following cues. In 1991, Denniston embarked on a new series entitled critical fictions, wherein he combined landscape-based imagery in the form of large, laminated Cibachromes, with text silkscreened onto the covering plexiglas of the frame. The overlaying text in each work seemed to correlate to the site depicted, telling the stuff of conspiracy theories and historical misconduct, but each successive story wavered increasingly between plausibility and disbelief, ultimately revealing both the fictitious nature of the tales and the potency of misdirection through visual evidence and the written word. In 1994, these landscape works gave way to personal fictions, a series of portraits, wherein Denniston invited his "subjects" to provide their own fictional history, and then collaboratively, they developed the story and devised the composition of the portrait. Both series came to be exhibited together under the title fictions. In 1997, Denniston premiered the Instant Horizon series. A new series of diptychs, these works recall the conceit of the Reminder series, but here, Denniston's initial image is a commercially produced lithograph - part of a brand of model railway backdrop - which provoked a return to a remembered place that he then photographed to create the pair. In 1998, Denniston exhibited a new series entitled billboards. Large ink-jet prints installed at an exaggerated height, the diptychs of billboards feature a Civil Defence siren against a digitally blue sky paired with looming cloud formations and, in one instant, an image of the cosmos. In reality, these sirens are all but abandoned relics, but in representation, stripped of their auditory potential, they take on an iconic presence. The cloud formations appear potent but they, too, are struck mute, resulting in a kind of interdependence of frustrated announcement. With his new video works under the series title stills, Denniston continues to use the Civil Defence sirens as subjects, this time recording them in real time, though they maintain the appearance of still photographs. There is ambient sound - birds chirping, traffic moving, wind blowing - that builds an expectation of the siren's blare, never to be satisfied. The motion picture medium builds an expectation of action, which with a sustained look will be mildly gratified by, variously, the sighting of a bird, the passing of clouds or a change in light levels, but the action is largely played out in the larger frame of duration.


Claire Christie
Toronto, July 2000



L A   B I E N N A L E   D E   M O N T R É A L   2 0 0 0
Tél. : (514) 288-0811
Téléc. : (514) 288-5021