Coldstream Fine Art is pleased to present STRANGE/BEAUTY, an exhibition of photography by Toronto-based artist Caitlin Cronenberg. Well known for her commercial and editorial portfolio, Cronenberg has jumped seamlessly between registers and styles throughout her career, sleekly capturing moments that both valourize and humanize her subjects. Featured in this exhibition are selections from a photo-diary of the Cannes Film Festival commissioned by The New York Times and a series of evocative portraits of Toronto icon Drake; also on view are an assortment of black-and-white photos selected by the artist to be shown together for the first time.
The foundation of Cronenberg’s work rests on a quote by the writer Walter Pater: “It is the addition of strangeness to beauty that constitutes the romantic character in art.” In her process of aestheticizing the real—as any photographer must in order to elevate the photograph beyond the indexical and into the artistic, beyond proof and into beauty—Cronenberg slips elements of the uncanny into each of her compositions. Questions of intention and direction are left open. The subjects’ poses are liminal, precariously frozen between unclear beginnings and ends, focusing the viewer’s attention on their unresolvable fleetingness. Drake sits within immersive foregrounds of flowers and dunes matched by two-dimensional backgrounds mimicking their appearance; artifice is presented as if it were unquestioned reality.
While the subjects of these photographs are, for the most part, widely recognized public figures, Cronenberg’s work effortlessly unearths private dimensions within them. Not only is the viewer given glimpses of life behind the scenes—and even provided a view of the photographers themselves in Photo Call—but they are invited to step behind the curtain themselves, however briefly. It is in these moments of imaginative observation that we find authenticity, vulnerability and complexity in figures that we have been conditioned to see only in one dimension. Through this, these photographs gain their namesake strangeness, elevating themselves from objects of aesthetics into objects of experience.