Robert Bourdeau: Edge of the Visible

October 1st, 2016 – January 29th, 2017

Robert Bourdeau, Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

Robert Bourdeau (Canadian, b. 1933) Sri Lanka (Ceylon), 1978, silver gelatin print on paper, mounted on mat board. Gift of Sean Bourdeau

ln my work I wish to pass through the ominous and emotional spatial boundaries. I am drawn to places where certain energies are closer to the surface. Such places correspond to emotional currents within me. ln certain places primordial forces seem at the very edge of the visible. These places possess a quality of power in which l feel vulnerable with a sense of ominous stillness; qualities that transcend the specificity of time.

– Robert Bourdeau

Since the 1970s, Kingston-born photographer Robert Bourdeau has gained a reputation for his large camera format images. He is particularly methodical in his preparation, contemplating a site for a prolonged period before committing to an extended exposure that allows for a maximum of detail in his finished photographs. In the images in this exhibition, Bourdeau uses film, and is not only known for his technical perfection, but the unique gold chloride solution that adds a particularly warm tone to his silver gelatin prints.

Bourdeau’s practice has been dominated by two compositional styles: the very detailed view where a rock wall might fill the entire frame, or a larger, distant view that encompasses both a great breadth and depth of a landscape. The microcosmic view is captured through the long exposure and camera size used which allows for details that draw the viewer into his world. Yet, interestingly, Bourdeau works in black and white because, as he notes it “separates the image from reality.” He has also long been interested in abandoned and disintegrated building sites. Within this exhibition are six works from his 1970s Sri Lanka (Ceylon) series. These pre-twelfth century Buddhist and Hindu temples had been reclaimed by the jungle, but had yet to be restored, speaking to an historical time that was only beginning to be regained. Bourdeau’s photographs simultaneously speak to the past and the present, within a bath of subtle light.

Edge of the Visible includes twelve recent additions of photographs by Bourdeau to the RMG collection. His aim is to understand the underlying structural complexity of nature, methodically composing each work with a subtle, clarifying light.