Abstract Painting and Photography Merge in the Work of Bill Anderson
Over the course of a photography career spanning more than three decades, the Scottish-born, Canadian transplant Bill Anderson has ranged from his medium’s earliest days—producing photographs using such historical processes as cyanotype, gum bichromate, and platinum printing—to its newest digital technologies. A burgeoning interest in Abstract Expressionism pushed him from analog to digital, in search of ways to shorten the distance between non-representational, color- and mark-based painted compositions and the images recorded by a camera. While this may seem like a quixotic project, an impossible gap to bridge, the selection of his experimental prints available through Wilding Cran Gallery proves that this artist knew what he was doing.
Through a combination of deft framing and digital manipulation, Anderson manages to make scenes of the city, nature, and the places where they meet appear semi-abstract and imagined. Speaking of his painterly photographs, he remarked: “These photographs are informed by my interest in the narrative of art, shifting cultural values, and a landscape that encompasses not only nature, but the fabricated places that cover it and butt up against it. They are an attempt to reveal the remarkable in the commonest of places.” And so they do, as in Graffiti (2013). By multiplying, layering, and blurring a picture of the exuberant, multicolored scrawls of graffiti on a patch of dark wall, he creates an almost thoroughly abstract composition, with ghosted images of individual letters and fragmented architectural features embedded within it. In a work like Flower Shop (2011), he captures the interior of a flower shop through its gridded security fence, broken apart into numerous discrete, geometric pieces. Sometimes, in works like Counter Balance #2 (2008), for example, he appears to overlay a monochromatic square onto a hazy, panoramic landscape to play with our reading of scale, flatness and depth, and foreground and background. This work is not actually a digital manipulation, but rather the result of Anderson’s masterful use of a wide aperture. This work also accomplishes something that is central to all of his works: it plays with the assumption that a photograph is a window onto the world.