William Oldacre at the Burston Gallery (1092 Queen West) to June 8. 416-516-1232. Rating: NNN Catherine Yass on billboards at southwest corner of Spadina and Richmond, to May 31. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
colour. a number of photographers at this year's Contact festival make it rise off the image. Some go so far as to sear it into your brain.Using two different methods of colour manipulation, William Oldacre and Catherine Yass create images in which the colours are incredibly intense yet retain subtle nuances.
Oldacre flips colours. In film this is called cross-processing because you make colours their opposites in the spectrum - blue skies become orange and red flowers green. Rather than doing this switch at the film stage, when it's difficult to control (and if you don't like the results, well, too bad because you've already ruined your film, plus photo labs don't like doing it), Oldacre digitally manipulates his images in Photoshop before spitting them out as giclée prints on large sheets of paper.
If you have Photoshop you can do this to a colour photo yourself by dragging down the adjustment layer menu in the layers palette and picking a gradient map. It's really quite easy but takes talent to exercise the necessary influence over the colours to make the image more than just a simple colour negative.
Oldacre has the gift. In one series shot from a car at night, street lights dance, storefronts shimmer and reflections play, all working in unison to illuminate the room with vibrant hues. In another series featuring blooming flowers, the manipulation is less obvious, the colours shifted to create tender, almost frail bundlings of stamen, petals and leaves.
Young British phenom Yass was shortlisted for the prestigious Turner Prize - recognizing the hottest Brit artists - in 2002 for her colour-rich photographs. She discovered her signature technique by accident in art school: combining positive and negative colour images to create hyper-colours.
To shoot Descent, the body of work on display on a series of billboards on the southwest corner of Spadina and Richmond, Yass dangled upside down, swaying in the breeze 800 feet above a construction site. The resulting photographs cast the site in a hazy bluish-purple glow. Dwarfed construction cranes are rendered in vivid reds and yellows. The motion caused by her suspension above the site blurs the images; the pictures are full of streaks in which the cranes are identifiable only by their difference in colour.
Too bad these billboards fail to capture the magnificence of Yass's work. The artist typically displays her photos in light boxes that give the colours extra punch. By comparison, the images on these billboards are flat, although still intriguing if you take the time to stare. At a glance they're easily mistaken for poorly printed ads whose colour has run down their faces like cheap mascara in the rain.