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"Six Hundred Things, #24 Pinghu Lu"
Greg Girard, "Six Hundred Things, #24 Pinghu Lu," 2005, photograph.
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Greg Girard, "Former Cinema," 2005, New York New York Disco, photograph.
GREG GIRARD, New Works
Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver
May 22 – June 21, 2008
By Ann Rosenberg
Since moving to Asia in 1983, Vancouver-born artist Greg Girard has been building a successful career as a commercial photographer, documenting many well-known sites and personalities in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and in other locations in mainland China. His photojournalism has appeared in magazines including Time, Newsweek, Forbes, Paris Match, Stern, and The New York Times Magazine. In addition to freelance and contract work, Girard has built an impressive body of fine art photographs that he’s shot on his own time.
Published in 1993, the book The City of Darkness contained the first group of Girard’s art photos, tracing the back streets of the walled precinct of Kowloon in Hong Kong, home to 30,000 people and razed to make way for new commercially viable structures. Images from the second project, Phantom Shanghai, were exhibited first in Monte Clark’s Toronto Gallery in 2005 before becoming part of a book by that name that was printed by Magenta Press in 2007. Selected images from the Thames & Hudson new edition of Phantom Shanghai will be the subject of a third exhibition at Clark’s Vancouver gallery in May.
Girard’s two art projects document old structures that have stood or are standing, in spite of all odds, in the face of China’s voracious, all-consuming hunger for urban land. It’s similar to the work Vancouver photographer Roy Arden has produced over the past 20 years, but the majority of Arden’s site photos are about construction rather than demolition, and they don’t have Girard’s truly felt empathy for the architecture or the lifestyles of the past eras.
The small selection of works that Girard has designated as photo-based art is singular in purpose, meaning, mood and technique “What Girard has found a way of making personal is not the archaeology of a particular site but its anthropology and lyricism,” Clark says. “There are not many people in his works, but a more positive view of human activities are implied by the amber light that spills from night windows, the clean laundry pegged on strings high over the dingiest alley, the spotlessly clean wooden floors of a tenement where there is a shared kitchen and bathroom. The bicycles set, unlocked, and with care against an ancient brick wall.”
Girard’s images are typically recorded in dim, mixed-light conditions, and his long exposures produce eerie but always poetic effects. The artificial illumination tints the humid night air of Shanghai with colours that Rubens would envy. The hope is that Girard will continue to work in this sensitive way in Shanghai and other sites where the old will soon be buried in the new.
Represented by: Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver, Toronto