Stepping into Mary Anderson’s WAV(E)S exhibit at the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC), you’re greeted by a wave of sound and transported away from the bustling noises of Gould Street.
The multimedia exhibit’s soundtrack is accompanied by a doctored recording of Lake Ontario. The sounds of the waves crashing upon the shore are combined with visuals of the water to create an oddly calming oasis on campus.
Anderson, a fourth-year photography student, says coming from Saskatchewan and her interest in American visual artist Roni Horn’s water images inspired this project.
“I wanted to shoot horizon lines because that’s one of my obsessions,” Anderson says. “But I had to shoot more than just the water and bring another element in.”
A multimedia project was born, with the exhibit fusing together traditional photography, video loops and accompanying audio of waves. Anderson says this mixing of image and sound became key in contextualizing the landscape-art genre and to make her art fit into a contemporary setting.
“There’s still a way to appreciate landscape, but you need another aspect to give it more depth,” Anderson says. “I wanted to focus on (a combination) that would slow the pace of the space down and make people present, which people don’t do enough of.”
Apart from the three larger images in her showcase, the majority of Anderson’s work requires up-close interaction to really appreciate Lake Ontario’s larger waves – a sight Anderson
stumbled upon only once in her 25 visits to Toronto’s Kew Beach.
“I went a couple times with my mom who was in town from Winnipeg and there was just little, tiny waves,” Anderson says. “I said, ‘this isn’t what I’m looking for.’ But when I went back, it was cloudier, and I could hear them, these huge waves. Immediately, I shot four rolls, and that was probably 60 per cent of the project right there. I’ve never seen waves like that since.”
But the entrancing sounds and visuals of Lake Ontario’s waves are not all thanks to Mother Nature. Anderson credits the softness of the crashing water to the medium she shot with: a film camera. Mixing a slow shutter speed with a large aperture, the waves in the majority of the collection almost look like they were painted onto prints rather than photographed.
Out of the dozen frames in the gallery, the standout piece in the collection takes form in one of the three large-scale images — a melting Lake Ontario on the backdrop of a bright blue sky. The gradient of snow and ice, mixed with the lightness of the clouds, carries a different stillness and weight in contrast to the surrounding frames.
Anderson says she hopes this sensory experience creates a resurgence in the appreciation of landscape photography.
“With people experimenting more with different media, we’re going to start seeing more integrated practice,” Anderson says. “In a city that’s limited in green space, we’re fortunate to have the water.”
Mary Anderson: WAV(E)S is on display in the RIC’s Student Gallery until April 13.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on March 26, 2014.