If you’ve passed the Gladstone after dark in the last week, you’ve likely caught a glimpse of the shapeshifting and ghostly cityscape cast on the front windows of the Art Hut, across the street. The display is by Chris Foster, the Art Hut’s current Artist in Residence. During his residency, he has developed a new installation called The March of Progress. It’s a giant revolving shadow lamp, exploring imagery taken from the vernacular of urban high rise development. If it looks a little more ominous than the shadow lamps you remember from childhood, it is. The revolving tableau will be growing and evolving over the course of the two week residency.
On your website, you call yourself an artist and problem solver? What problem are you most interested in solving right now with your art?
My tongue in cheek use of Artist + Problem Solver and my title has been a tidy way to account for all of the various work I do alongside my creative practice. I am a contract freelancer who has worn many hats, working as a carpenter, handy man, project manager, event coordinator, art director, designer, illustrator, cat wrangler etc. Having many vocations has been a great way to be constantly learning while being paid and gives me a very flexible schedule to take on art projects such as the Gladstone Art Hut.
What was the inspiration behind the revolving shadow box project?
I have been making miniature models of high rise buildings being constructed in my studio. While driving along the Gardiner expressway as the sun was rising, I witnessed beams of sunlight pass through new high-rise buildings under construction. I found this effect mesmerizing and realized I could mimic it through a giant shadow lamp.
Can you tell me a bit about the mechanics of piece, and the materials used in the sculptures that cast the shadows? How will the shadow box be transforming over the course of your residency?
The mechanics are all old school cheap tricks. I am using a 1000 W Chimera light bulb to cast shadows on an opaque white window film. The light hangs above a large rotating table on giant lazy Susan that is turned by a rotisserie motor. The sculptures are made from styrofoam bits, matte board, wood skewers and bits and bobs from my studio, with the exception of ‘Panopticon Village’ which is a series of tiny panopticon buildings that I 3D printed at the Banff Centre in Alberta this summer. Throughout the course of the residency I will add many new buildings to the installation, obscuring the landscape as density builds.
Can you tell me about your Infill sculptures and how they relate to the shadow piece?
‘Infill’ is a series of sculptures made from building debris from Tommy Thompson Park – the man-made peninsula, also known as the Leslie Street Spit, where the city of Toronto dumps surplus fill from development sites within the city. Miniature to-scale scaffolding surrounds each of the objects. These architectural additions frame and compliment the objects, elevating them through a shift in context and scale. These works have a thematic and aesthetic relationship to the shadow lamp in their representations of infrastructure.
You seem to move between mediums frequently. How do you select a medium for a project, and how does this variety affect your creative process?
I attended Art School at NSCAD in Halifax Nova Scotia and definitely drank the school’s fabled conceptual art Cool Aid. I believe that the idea is the machine that builds the work and this strategy has led me to a multidisciplinary approach to art making that has me constantly working across media. Artworks are first and foremost an expression of their medium and also- the medium is the message. The medium chosen is the medium best suited to convey an idea, language, conversation etc.
Where does your interest in the rise and fall of cities, or the ‘March of Progress’ of cities stem from?
Sweeping change and development is an inevitability in Toronto as more than 100000 people move here every year and the world looks upon this place as a safe, tolerant and prosperous place to live in an increasingly uncertain time. Although the pace of development in TO seems irresponsible and is causing major growing pains in terms of physical and social infrastructure – it also does not going to relent.
What do you hope viewers take away from your project?
I hope they have an interesting aesthetic experience, and all the better if that experience an entry point for the viewer into broader conversations about development, reuse and renewal at a time when urban development and regional demographics are in rapid transformation.
Chris Foster is a multidisciplinary visual artist, designer and carpenter based in Toronto. His artwork explores material culture, the built environment and spaces in transition. His work takes aesthetic cues from architectural vernacular and anachronistic technologies. His creative process is motivated by site specific installations, production-based projects, multiples and editions. For more of his work, check out his website and follow him on Instagram.
March of Progress will be on display at the Art Hut from December 31st to January 2nd. Chris will be holding gallery hours from 12pm-5pm, Monday-Friday. Find details on the reception here.