Cyanotypes of Al Girard, a traditional First Nations dancer and musician, and Curtis Phagoo, a musician and goldsmith. These are part of an exhibit by Robin Byrnes at the Kiwanis Gallery in the Red Deer Public Library until Nov. 17. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Portraits in blue by Red Deer artist Robin Byrnes

Photographic artist pays tribute to the local arts scene

Robin Byrnes set out to prove that the arts are “alive and well” in central Alberta.

The evidence can be seen in her exhibit Cyanotypes at the Kiwanis Gallery in Red Deer’s public library.

The space, operated by the Red Deer Arts Council, is full of cyan blue representations of Red Deer-area artists — from ceramicists to musicians, dancers, painters and actors.

Byrnes said in her artistic statement that she didn’t set out to find the best known artists in the area, but those who have talents in two or more different art forms — such as actor and visual artist Paul Boultbee, musician/goldsmith Curtis Phagoo, as well as painter Susan Barker and graphic artist Issy Covey, who also create ceramics.

These images and others have been caught through the cyanotype process that uses sunlight to transfer a photographic image onto paper or fabric.

Byrnes is herself a dual artist in that she started out drawing and ended up doing photography.

According to her biography, she discovered cyanotype — in which a mixture of iron compounds is exposed to UV light and washed in oxidized water to create Prussian blue images — in 2015.

She became hooked on what Byrnes describes as the “fine or flop” of it. In other words, would the final image be a failure or a happy surprise?

Since she depends on sunlight to reveal her images, Byrnes said she enjoyed “the constant monitoring of often incorrect weather forecasts and managing the multiple steps in the process so that, magically, like pancakes and syrup, they all came together, complete at the same time.”

She sees her works as an interplay of positive and negative spaces, figure and ground: “My subjects … often try to escape the confines of the rectangular” — which is an appropriate metaphor for the genre-breaking multi-talented artists she has depicted in this show.

Byrnes feels the camera has drawn her to people she might not have otherwise met.

“I have become friends with an interesting, talented and generous group of artists — all the while, learning how well the cyanotype process is suited to portraiture in my style.”

The widely travelled Byrnes, who has a bachelor of visual arts degree from the University of Victoria, hopes viewers will enjoy the exhibit and reflect on the wide array of art being created in central Alberta.

The show continues to Nov. 17.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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