Cheryl Pagurek’s early training in sculpture and printmaking is key to her constructive and layered approach to artmaking. Her path to photography originated in the documentation of her ephemeral installations; these explorations continued in video, eventually leading to the embodied experience of interactive media, where movement guides navigation through the artwork. Based in Ottawa, Pagurek’s artistic practice now highlights the constructed nature of lens-based media, while embracing the creative expression offered by computing and technology.
She interweaves contrasting streams of imagery and sound from many sources, while accentuating the abstract qualities of colour, form and movement to create a dynamic, cohesive whole. Works in video, photography, digital and interactive media feature interconnections and tensions between public and private, past and present, representation and abstraction, urban and natural spaces, the many facets of contemporary life. Ongoing learning and exploration are vital to her process. She integrates technology into her practice in service to the artistic content, while prioritizing the continuity of her visual vocabulary and the aesthetics of her work. She welcomes the exciting possibilities of ‘controlled randomness’, introduced into her work through coding and interaction. The invitation to engage in the ongoing evolution of her artworks brings participants into the creative triad of artist, viewer, and technology. As a woman in the cross-over area of art and tech, she aims to broaden approaches and themes presented in the field.
Since receiving an M.F.A. from the University of Victoria, Pagurek’s work has been shown widely across Canada including exhibits at Patrick Mikhail Gallery (Ottawa and Montreal), Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery (Halifax), Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal, Vu (Québec City), Gallery 44 (Toronto), Carleton University Art Gallery (Ottawa), and internationally with numerous video screenings in France, Brazil, Columbia, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Netherlands, and the USA. She was commissioned to create Currents, a permanent outdoor video display for the Marketplace Transit Station in Ottawa. Her works have appeared in public art events in several cities, including Nuit Blanche Ottawa Gatineau, Kamloops Art Gallery’s Luminocity program, Toulouse’s Rencontres Traverse Vidéo, and Kingston’s Next Door public art exhibit. Her solo exhibit Connect/Connexion at the Ottawa Art Gallery in 2019 featured an interactive video and audio installation. Upcoming in 2024, she will present a new interactive installation, States of Being, in a solo exhibit at Art-Image Gallery in Maison de la culture de Gatineau, Québec.
In 2020, she received the Corel Endowment for the Arts Award celebrating the integration of technology and the arts, and a Canada Council for the Arts Digital Originals grant for an online project. Her work is in several collections including Global Affairs Canada, the Canada Council Art Bank, the Library of the National Gallery of Canada, Cenovus Energy Inc., the Ottawa Art Gallery and the City of Ottawa, and has been written about in international publications, including The Globe and Mail, Esse, Ciel Variable, BlackFlash, Vie des Arts, Canadian Art online, Next Level (UK), Turbulences Vidéo (FR), and Afterimage (USA).
In early works, home and family life were central themes, situated within a broader framework of social, historical, commercial and political contexts. Subsequent works record her own observations of natural phenomena in photography and video, often combining them with found imagery and footage, like old family snapshots and movies, archival films and photographs, and contemporary military tracking footage. Several series investigate the interrelated concepts of time, memory and history. The ephemeral quality of many of her videos evokes the ‘present-ness’ of the disappearing past. Relationships of presence and absence are already intrinsic to photography and video in the framing of the subject and in their indexical nature; in many works these ideas are further emphasized by the selective removal of some visual information. Other works, like the State of Flux photographs, and the Wave Patterns, Bodies of Water, and Currents videos, dwell in the liminal spaces between natural and built environments, between abstraction and representation, and between lens-based media and painting, with water imagery embodying the idea of continual transformation.
More recent works probe our relationships to the world around us in a digitally networked, global society. Photographs, videos, and interactive installations offer alternatives to our habitual perspectives on events both near and far, encouraging a sense of engagement.
In Connect, an interactive video and audio installation, participants discover local and global video imagery and sound through the moving shapes of their own bodies. Connect contrasts the agency, embodiment, and immediacy felt within the installation, with the mediation that pervades much of our digital connections in everyday life, where the content we consume and create is framed and formatted by the medium of its transmission.
The Tea Cups series of videos and photo-based digital prints were made by projecting contemporary news imagery into vintage tea cups, and recording the results. The contextualizing frame of the tea cup brings worldwide events closer to home, evoking human fragility, and acknowledging the filter of individual experience through which our perceptions are shaped as we try to comprehend far-reaching events around us.
The Untitled Moments prints are a contemporary take on the aesthetic of Matisse’s Cut-Outs. By exploring her personal archive of cell phone photos as source material, Pagurek examines these ubiquitous devices as interface between the individual and their surroundings. The prints in this series are supported and amplified by Untitled Moments: Contemplate, Animate, Generate, Participate, an online project featuring animations of the creative process leading to the finished prints, and browser-based generative and interactive artworks.
Most recently, States of Being was conceived to expand the expressive potential of interactive installation by inviting dancers (and the public) to engage with it. Each participant brings their own movement vocabulary when navigating and synthesizing the evocative videos and rhythmic audio tracks. Their actions in space influence which of the paired videos appears within their moving body silhouette and which in the background of the projection, as well as how the musical layers build up into a soundscape. The resulting video and sound compositions uniquely express our precarious human condition amidst the fluctuating states of being we strive to balance. In the present internet era, when we constantly construct and perform online identity via social media platforms, game avatars, and video calls, the States of Being installation reimagines the possibilities for self-representation. It offers an alternative, experiential and experimental mode to enact virtual creations of ourselves, while straddling both real and digital worlds.
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