A walrus surfaces from the ocean. A polar bear roams rocky terrain. Two foxes encounter one another in twisted play. At first glance, Philip Kanwischer’s photographs appear to be extraordinary wildlife images, but further reflection reveals clever deceit. They have been altered to challenge our perceptions.
In this exhibition, Kanwischer presents nine photographs and five drawings inspired by his encounters with wildlife in Alberta, Yukon Territory, Eastern Canada and Svalbard—a Norwegian archipelago situated between continental Norway and the North Pole. During these encounters, relationships were formed, information was exchanged and photographs were captured. The artist likes to think of each creature as a collaborator. Their calls and gestures inform the work in tandem with his creative process. The initial meeting is only the introduction. From there, the artist sorts through hundreds of photographs and uses drawing and needle felting to develop ideas for final compositions. It is a lengthy process that results in composite images that have been digitally altered and bonded together. The images straddle the line between what is possible and what is fantastical, creating an unsettling tension for the viewer. As Kanwischer explains, “the goal of my work is to embody otherworldly interspecies scenarios, creating a commentary on our current climate and the othering of our animal counterparts.”
The Animal Responded encourages us to move beyond a passive glance and acknowledge that each creature represented has a unique point of view—that when we look at them, they look back at us. It is from this vantage point that we can begin to untangle the bodies of the foxes, count the limbs of the polar bear and trace the word leave along the scars of the walrus.”
Curated by Shannon Bingeman
Developed by the Alberta Society of Artists
The Animal Responded is a touring exhibition developed by the Alberta Society of Artists for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA) Travelling Exhibition Program (TREX). The program is financially supported by the AFA with a mandate to ensure every Albertan is provided with an opportunity to enjoy fully developed exhibitions in schools, libraries, health care centres, and smaller rural institutions and galleries throughout the province.
Image: Philip Kanwischer, Bear Study 1, 2018. Archival Pigment Print. 50 x 50 cm. Courtesy of the artist.