Since early 2015, artists Emma Lehto and Jennifer Mawby have been engaged in dialogue through their respective studio practices. During this ongoing conversation the artists are respectively developing a co-informed body of work, Double Negative, underpinned by a mutual interest in the figure, and exploring the nature of positive and negative space.
Lehto, who trained in both communication design and studio arts, is known for her text-based work and literally creates negative space through the cutting and discarding of figures and text from books, magazines, and other printed publications. Her recent projects pose some unexpected questions about the sanctity of identity, and the constraints of political correctness.
Mawby’s work is underpinned by narrative portraiture (a kind of text), and one way she uses the concept of positive and negative space is to conceptually rationalize her transmedia practice. (Tangible mediums such as painting and photography exist in positive space, and virtual, digital mediums such as video or web-based art exist in negative space.) In the Double Negative works she considers the relationship of the body (aka the figure) to virtual/cyber or negative space.
With the sharing ideas, offcuts and remnants of studio work, Double Negative evolves as the artists respond to the ideas and work being developed. The use of appropriation and a debt to the “cut up” technique of Burroughs and Gysin are apparent in the outcome. The respective process and methods can also be considered through the lens of Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” and newer provocative theories on Remix Culture.
Vancouver artist Lehto holds two Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in Communication Design and Integrated Media, and Fine Arts from Emily Carr University. Prior to this training she completed the Studio Art Diploma Program at Capilano University. Her work spans a continuum between book and text art, and conceptual contemporary art. She treats the book as an object, cutting away text or images, or defacing the form through shooting it with a rifle or attempting to dissolve it in Coca Cola. In this project she continues her fascination with paper construction, and the effect that introducing negative space has on the familiarity, readability, or recognition of the book, and of the narrative content. Lehto has exhibited her work steadily over the last 10 years.
Vancouver artist Mawby engages the forms and concerns of painting, photography, film and animation in a trans-disciplinary practice that embraces digital innovation. A current interests that relates to this project is the influence of digital imaging and publishing on contemporary painting. She maintain a research journal alongside her portfolio website that can be found here.
Jennifer holds a practice-based Masters of Fine Art (honours) from OCA and University for the Creative Arts (UCA) in the U.K. Prior to that she received her BA Classical Studies at UBC, completed the Management Skills for Advanced Technology (MSAT) program at SFU, and the Fine Art Techniques Certificate at Emily Carr University. She is a co-director of Vantage Art Projects, a curatorial partnership focused on collaborative exhibition-in-print projects and art books. Mawby’s work has been published and shown in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.
In February 2017, Mawby founded Art Workers Victorious, a shared studio space in Vancouver BC in response to the dwindling supply of studio space in the city and increasing costs.