The works comprising Greg McCarthy’s The Snow Is Salt (2015) examine the role played by William Notman (1826 – 1891), a photographer based out of Montreal during Canada’s formative years, in shaping the country’s national identity. Notman, perhaps the first Canadian photographer to gain an international reputation, specialized in landscape photography that catered to the tourist trade, as well as photography that documented the urbanization of Canadian cities. In McCarthy’s work, Notman’s photographs are cut, duplicated, restaged and redacted to create new images, ones that prompt us to re-examine how Notman’s archival photographs function in a contemporary context.
McCarthy reproduces his interventions on Notman’s photographs as digital prints. By doing this, the tape and other alterations no longer function as additions to or subtractions from the image. Rather, they become a part of the source material and create a unified surface, one of an image in conflict with itself. (Or, as McCarthy put it, “a trompe l’oeil waiting to fail.”) The reworked studio setups and installations become sites displaying their own performativity , their own artifice and their own inability to function as their predecessors once did. The works are not critical of Notman’s images or notions of national identity, but call for a reappraisal of their function today.
Based in Toronto, Greg McCarthy works primarily in collage and photography. Earlier works have dealt with promotional advertising in the music industry and tourism in the Niagara region. He graduated with a BFA from the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto in 2015, and had his first solo exhibition at Gallery 1313 earlier this year.