Où il est question de la nature : le printemps, 1999

H 30.5cm X L 384.8cm

inkjet print on Banner

Où il est question de la nature : l’hiver, 1999

H 30.5cm X L 384.8cm

inkjet print on Banner

Où il est question de la nature : l’automne, 1999

H 30.5cm X L 384.8cm

inkjet print on Banner

Où il est question de la nature : l’été, 1999

H 30.5cm X L 384.8cm

inkjet print on Banner


The Photographic Work of Ellen Moffat and Joyce Ryckman

… Ryckman has focused on her own surroundings, recording while slowly advancing the film, a series of images of a garden through spring, summer, fall, and winter.  The haunting cinematic scrolls of images extend across the wall and carry the viewer through the seasons. …


When confronted with Ellen Moffat and Joyce Ryckman’s images, I ask myself what motivates these artists in their picture-taking?  Can I catch a glimpse of their identities through their works?  An impossible task or is that the point?  “At every moment identity is assumed, and immediately called into question, a constant making and remaking of the world, cappable of revealing endlessly new points of view.”  Do these photographers wish merely to do what photography promises to do—to capture the instant, to perceive the moment as it slips away, to recreate perception at a later date?  The artists take those perameters as given and use photographs in a cumulative way to portray the passage of time, the movement through space.

The assumption was once shared that photography is a neutral medium.  Now perhaps we see beyond its technology, its illusion of impartiality, when we view work by artists who admit involvement, declare subjectivity, affirm presence—or who resist that involvement.  Moffat and Ryckman acknowledge their impartiality and want to shape their obvious participation as an exploration, to bend photography’s limitations to their own ends—to nudge, prod, push into becoming a maping, an almanac, a record of experience.  Moffat wants to create a new imaege of landscape by her random selection of viewpoint which coincides with the hours of the clock.  Ryckman tries to capture the intensity of closely viewing something over an extended period of time with an additive series of images of the same place over one full day and night in each season.

Time and place intersect in the moment.  And the artist selects the time and place, in this case a series of times and places, to render an idea.  “And what is an artist (photographer)?  A bird-catcher of instants!” Moffat and ryckman want to escape theconfines of the medium (one subject, one photograph, one moment} and the historical weight on predictable images.  They have created their own boundaries, at the same time allowing chane to intervene.  Their photoraphy mimics a trajectory—of a body throug space, of light through the day, seasons through the year.  They want to write new stories with photography.  “If we rely on history to tell us what happened at a specific time and place, we can rely on the story to tell us not only what might have happened, but also what is happening at an unspecified time and place.”


Even though the images on the wall are static, I have a sense of motion—or motion vying with stillness.  Where does travel, at once exciting and melancholy, take you?  Stopping and starting, arrivals and departures, merging of one image into another, seeing and leaving views at every moment.  Moffat’s long lines of photographs across the wall imitate that experience.  “We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”  Ryckman’s obsessiv  ly observd gardens remind us that the famiar, what is seen everyday, is also constantly changing and requires repeated viewing and re-viewing as the seasons pass over a place.

Both artists, in their project to capture a total experience, record images during the night as well as the day, posing another question—can one picture darkness?  Light is essential to photography, but not not to human sight.  At night the eyes are still open, perceiving shadows, distinctions of dark and darker.  These images continue to capture the image long after the light has left.  Shadows emerge from darkness: shapes form and dissolve.  “The darkness is trans-luminous.”


The photograph freezes time.  It’s premise is to capture one moment.  “Through photographs, the world becomes a series of unrelated, free-standing particles; and history, past and present.  a set of anecdotes and faites divers.  The camers makes reality atomic, manageable and opaque.  It is a view of the world which denies interconnectedness.”  Each artist has a strategy to challene the prevailing wisdom, to extend the single image to many or merge the moments into an extended image.  “I divide myself thougsands of times, into as many times as the seconds that pass away, fragmentary as I am and precarious the moments.”  Is it possible to step outside of the confines of the frame, to perceive/picture the flow of time?  To parallel the accumulation of memory, the experience of moving through time or space?  “You should simplu make the instant stand out, without in the process hiding what you are making it stand out from, that progression of one-thing-after-another…permitting the spectator to experience this Now on many levels, coming from Previously and merging into Afterwards, also having much else Now alongside it.”

Moffat’s device of recording frame by frame what passes hour by hour and Ryckman’s advancing the film to create overlapping images, succeed in disrupting the usual process of taking photoraphs.  And in both cases, their methods suggest impermanence, what is fleeting and about to disappear.  Time is an essential element for both artists: their works convey a continuity behind the instant of attention, giving a sense of timelessness, of constant change.  “One can tell the facts.  One can invent.  It is more difficult to tell the truth than to invent.”  Perhaps the most interesting location for the artist is somewhere between time and place, between truth and fiction.


There is little evidence of human presence in these photographic works (except, of course, by implication, the photographer and the viewer).  The gallery visitor stands in the place of the original viewer: the photographer.  But the artists’ weaving of their own stories into their works reveals something about themselves that is conveyed in a subtle way to the viewer.  And though objectivity is still sought in the technical means and process of the photoraph, a sharing of sensation between artist and viewer occurs, as an intimation of the human presence beyond the lens comes through.

I allow sensation to carry me but reach beyond the image to the maker of the image, to the idea.  No artist is neutral.  No viewer is innocent.  I wonder if it is significant that both artists are women—and hat I am a woman viewer?  Do they “diffuse themselves according to modalities scarcely compatible with the framework of the ruling symbiotics?”  Being incompatable with the (male) history of a medium, are they seeking to rewrite, to re-invent, to repeat until heard more clearly?  “Is there an alternative photographic practice?…The system can accommodate any photograph.  Yet it may be possible to begin to use photography according to a practice addressed to an alternative future.”

Sandra Vida,

Blackflash, Vol. 20.1 / 2002

Où il est question de la nature : les saisons, TRUCK. Calgary, Alberta,2002