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Michael Lyons
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Pretty portraits - next level Family Ties runs til Sat, Mar 23 at the Daniel Faria Gallery
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Found family

Portraits gone wild in a new show at the Daniel Faria Gallery


Naming siblings Christy and Chris would be a cruel, lifelong joke of the kind parents play on their children, but in the context of artistic duo Christy and Chris’s collaboration Family Ties, it’s sweet. “My dad is a photojournalist, which means our family gatherings, vacations and holidays, no matter how mundane, were documented,” Toronto artist (and recent Buddies art auction curator) Chris Ironside says. “Every November up until I was about 21, my father would drag my mom, brother and I to the photo studio for our yearly portrait. My brother and I would always egg each other on to see which one of us would lose our composure first – jeopardizing the family photo.” Ironside and fellow artist and gallery assistant director Christy Thompson use everyone’s shared experience of  family photos as a springboard for their work on Album, a series of hand-drawn portraits that would go on to inspire the show at the Daniel Faria Gallery. Birthdays, vacations, graduations: many have to suffer through the documenting of these mundane milestones, but each picture captures a moment. “I never at the time recognized the importance of such picture taking,” Ironside says. “Now, as a photographer myself, I look back and can see the importance. It is a visual record of my history, my family and of those I have loved and of those I have lost.”

The two artists met during their undergrad days at the University of Guelph. They found in each other a mutual attraction to traditional portraiture and began working on a series of portraits, constantly reviewing and responding to each other’s work. The spirit of their work on Album was later picked up by the gallery. When Canadian novelist and visual artist Douglas Coupland contributed his own family portraits, a theme emerged. With contributions by a half dozen artists coming together, Family Ties looks to challenge understanding of family photographs. “Hanna Hur focuses on the dynamic between twins,” says Rui Amaral, gallery associate from the Daniel Faria Gallery, “while Michael Klein looks at the lineage of the name Molly in his family, for example.”

Many within the queer community often find their families, loved ones and the people they care for made up of a jumble of people who are not necessarily blood relatives. Thompson and Ironside explain how the idea of a found family is explored in Album. “The images we work from are those of individuals that we respond to and are intrigued by – this includes family, images from the media and those who surround us. There is definitely a sense of familiarity when looking at the portraits – a familiarity that you might not exactly be able to pinpoint and that was something we very much enjoy about the work and the engagement of the audience with it.”
In the end, no matter what the relationship with the person being captured, the portrait itself is a powerful conduit for Ironside and one the artist wants to invite people to experience. “Portraiture is performance,” he says. “The person sitting for a photograph, painting or drawing gives a performance of how they want to be viewed, which oftentimes involves a certain level of fiction. The portrait then becomes a ‘stand-in’ for that person.” Think of it as a class photo, infinitely less tacky, taken to the next level. Say cheese!
Family Ties runs til Sat, March 23 at the Daniel Faria Gallery, 188 St Helens Ave. danielfariagallery.com

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