2 min

Forced perspective

Breath Taking images are a pleasure without all the interpretation

WATER MARK. Sue Lloyd's photos are fine northern landscapes. Credit: Sue Lloyd

We no longer believe that images are complete and closed. No, we arty-types must assemble, disassemble, encode, decode, read, unravel and interpret images – and then try it all another way.

The works of Kelly McCray and Sue Lloyd, in a smart pairing at Gallery TPW, appear to elicit such a response. But I’m ambivalent. On one hand, we are attracted to the pictorial complexity of their photographs, and on the other we are drawn into a state of analytic suspension.

Titled Breath Taking, the pictures feature bodies swathed in light, texture, deep-velvet darkness and sensation. We are happy to let the deeper meanings they may carry reside in our unconscious and enjoy them simply on a visual level.

Lloyd’s big colour digital photographs, titled Searchworks, are diptychs that pair, for instance, images of women floating in row boats holding up lanterns and who peer down into the water’s depths with images of swimmers below the bisecting line.

Posited as allegories by the show’s curators, they can come across as simplistic and over-determined in their meaning.

Do we read them through the Greek myth of Persephone, abducted to the underworld by Hades, searched for by a distraught mother who wants her by her side on earth? As a continuous desiring of the other, of coupling, alongside the knowledge of assured separateness? The format of the diptych automatically forces a relational reading: air/water; upper/lower; conscious/unconscious, etc.

You see, here we go… interpreting these pictures beyond the obvious, solving them as complex puzzles is expected of us. But is it warranted?

When they work best for me, they are simply pictures: northern rural landscapes of lakes and trees; swimmers as abstracted forms bathed in golden light in murky waters; lantern light thrown by impassive boat-dwellers falling back on their own inward-looking faces.

As allegories, they over-reach and lose subtlety.

While Lloyd’s images reside in the damper regions of feminine devotion, Kelly McCray’s video and photographs herald the heroics and humiliatons of homo-bonding.

Reminiscent of the endurance and body performances of the 1970s (think of Lisa Steele and Vito Acconci), McCray, in a short video, stands naked and dispassionate as another man, clothed, covers him in bite marks and hickeys. Pleasure, pain, power, politics. As the red welts rise and the pseudo-lover departs, McCray rotates to display himself, strikes the pose of a Greek Olympian, his muscular figure failing to project a picture of health, physical power or passionate feeling.

Titled Gnawts, this body of work – which also includes several small giclée photographs elegantly printed on watercolour paper and two large colour photographs – captures in between movements and moments from the video. Looked at apart from the video and its stark realism, the photos soften the contradictions, present a bonding less clinical, striking a pose not so much indifferent, as tentative.

In Breath Taking, both Lloyd and McCray suspend their images between a kind of submission to circumstance and complex interaction. How and if we puzzle them out can feel like a bit of an imperative with this show. Nevertheless, making sense of them, whether conscious or not, can feel suspiciously – and refreshingly – simple.

Breath Taking.

Till Sat, May 12.

Gallery TPW.

80 Spadina Ave, Suite 310.

(416) 504-4242.