Michael Mew:
Sum of Us: New Photographic Mosaics

Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond
June 3-July 11

Michael Mew
Michael Mew, Harmony in 6 pieces (1997),
polaroid emulsion lift on poplar wood

Melting pot or mosaic? In one conception of an integrated society, cultures are absorbed and neutralized; in the other, they stand crisp and clear in a checkerboard of identities.

In this latest exhibition of the work of first-generation Canadian Michael Mew, the images themselves are presented in mosaic groups of portrait, place and object. Mew has photographed people who have been significant exemplars to him through their work and integrity, and aligned the portraits with cropped images of personal artifacts and structures in their lives. Among the inspirational people portrayed are Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen, former MLA Rosemary Brown and Haida artist Bill Reid. Other installations incorporate sign language with Chinese characters and Buddhist iconography as Mew considers the difficulties of communication among our many languages and symbol systems.

These unusual artworks, consisting of Polaroid emulsion lifts transferred onto wooden blocks, conjure a domino effect on the gallery walls. Although they are not intended to be interactive, the pieces appear to have arbitrary arrangements which might well be shaken up and re-distributed in new formations of identity and reflection, much as we live and coexist in Canada today.

© Mia Johnson