Pictura Gallery

Ella Morton

The Dissolving Landscape

Dates + Events

December Pictura Kids: Dissolving Trees

Saturday, December 3 | 11:00am - 12:00pm

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January Pictura Kids: Dissolving Landscapes

Saturday, January 7 | 11:00am - 12:00pm

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December Gallery Walk: Ella Morton

Friday, December 2 | 5:00pm - 8:00pm

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January Gallery Walk: Ella Morton

Friday, January 6 | 5:00pm - 8:00pm

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On view at Pictura, December through January: the work of Ella Morton. The Dissolving Landscape (2016-21) is a series of experimental analogue photographs that examine climate change in the landscapes of Canada and Nordic Europe. The project asks the question: what are we losing, in terms of our spiritual connection to the land, as the climate rapidly changes? Morton’s material process expresses the complex relationship humans have with this landscape, which involves awe, admiration and exploitation.

Ella Morton (she/her) is a Canadian visual artist and filmmaker living in Toronto. Her expedition-based practice has brought her to residencies and projects across Canada, Scandinavia and Antarctica. Working primarily with lens-based media, she uses experimental analogue processes to capture the sublime and fragile qualities of remote landscapes. She earned a BFA from Parsons School of Design (New York) in 2008 and an MFA from York University (Toronto) in 2015. She has exhibited her work internationally, including shows at Lonsdale Gallery (Toronto), Foley Gallery (New York), the Center for Fine Art Photography (Fort Collins), Contemporary Calgary (Calgary), Galérie AVE (Montréal), Viewpoint Gallery (Halifax), Photographic Center Northwest (Seable), the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art (Kelowna) and Hanstholm Art Space (Denmark). Her practice has been supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the National Film Board of Canada.

ellamorton.com

The Dissolving Landscape is a series of experimental analogue photographs that examine climate change in the Arctic and Subarctic landscapes of Canada and Nordic Europe. The project asks the question: what are we losing, in terms of our spiritual connection to the land, as the climate rapidly changes? I consider myself a poetic activist, articulating the profundity of our relationship with the land, and the emotional complexity of its change and loss as global warming unfolds.

The images are treated with mordançage and film soaking techniques. Mordançage is a black and white process that degrades the shadow areas of silver gelatin prints, lifting the emulsion off the paper to create unique textures and veils. Film soaking involves submerging colour film in various acidic solutions prior to exposure to warp the emulsion. My goal in using these processes is to capture the transcendent and fragile qualities of the landscape. The ways in which the images melt and degrade highlight the spiritual power of the natural environment and also lament its destruction as the planet warms.

This work also addresses how the medium of photography itself is in transition. The proliferation of consumer photography through the emergence of smart phones and social media has challenged artists to use the medium in new ways. I aim to uncover how photographs can show more than a straightforward depiction of reality, and how the alchemy of analogue techniques can be reinvented in the digital age to tell deeper stories within images.

In Ella Morton’s photographs, the land, water and sky seem to breathe and pulsate with life force. She shows the fragile, exquisite beauty of a living world
in flux. The images compress layers of time, bringing destructive actions from the past, the present landscape, and the possible future all together into one precarious moment. In this way, she helps us comprehend the extent of the loss that we face.

Morton creates forms on the page that feel like waves of energy sweeping over the earth’s foundations. That dramatic action is striking in these otherwise serene landscapes. The pictures sound like an avalanche, like a skyscraper buckling in the knees before it falls.

In Pakri Lighthouse, Morton centers the piece on the lighthouse, a historic symbol of safety and the promise of solid ground. But here, it is cracking up and evaporating. What was fixed has become thin air. The disintegrating shadows make for a disconcerting inversion.

In Morton’s color work, the interventions on the film are unpredictable. At times the water damage moves like a breath across the frame, staining the atmosphere with electric color. The scenes are at once magical and dangerous, like radioactive water, fascinatingly contaminated.

Ella Morton’s photographs bring fresh power to the issues surrounding climate change, through her intimate relationship to the land and the unusual physical techniques she employs on the surfaces. In her beautiful photographs, the presumed solidity of the world begins to melt, and existing and impending loss is viscerally felt.

Exhibits Archive