Angela Grauerholz Scotiabank Photography Award

Angela Grauerholz is a Canadian photographer creating imaginary spaces, glimpses of interiors (either public or private), and ethereal rural and urban landscapes. Grauerholz’s subjective vision is contemplative, presenting intimate moments that reveal the passage of time. With their out-of-focus quality, her photographs appear as an autobiographical stream of consciousness, which is transformed by the eyes of the viewers to create a sense of collective memory. Over the course of her career, the artist’s use of photography has revealed the world through black and white, and more recently coloured, self-reflective images. From the pictorial nature of her single photographs to composite installations, Grauerholz has contributed to the re-invention of the medium. She emphasizes the materiality of images, proposing new viewing modalities, and embracing new technologies.

This exhibition celebrates the artist’s career through a survey of more than 70 works, spanning from the 1980s to today. Her photographs speak to the notion of memory, described by the artist as “a kind of amnesia, a vague recollection of something that can be conjured up, triggered by an event or site, but remains blurred.” A recurrent theme in her work addresses the specific architecture and distinctive display modes of archives, museums, and libraries, photographed throughout Europe and North America. She has documented a number of these sites of memory, focusing on how they function as constructed locations for cultural memory to reside.

If rigorous and harmonious frameworks define these symbolic places of official historical narratives, then Grauerholz’s large-format and contemplative tableaux disrupt their traditional representations. Her meticulous compositions isolate architectural components (windows, doors, corners), pieces of furniture (sofa, chairs, mirrors), decoration details (curtains, tapestry), and cropped, blurry artworks. Her formal training in graphic design, literature, and linguistics also contributes to the ways she approaches photography as a form of visual diary. She amasses objects—images, texts, articles, and books—such as in Privation (2001), an ensemble of unique photographs documenting her personal books destroyed by a fire. Highlighting the designs of the books, the series represents an inventory of her lost library, a self-referential typology of her reading habits.

Grauerholz also challenges the two-dimensional formal structure of the medium. Turning away from the single image hung on the wall, she accumulates her own photographs, which she displays in specific installations, such as in her seminal project Sententia I-LXII (1998). The works are presented on sliding panels in a 19th-century-like cabinet; this approach creates new and unusual exhibition possibilities. A narrative is constructed through a systematic organization of her images to be shared with visitors. Grauerholz’s interest in the displays of her photographs, imagined as innovative experiences, makes the viewers active participants in creating her photographic universe.

— Diane Charbonneau,
 2015 Scotiabank Photography Award nominator

The Scotiabank Photography Award is the largest 
peer-reviewed photographic art award in Canada, 
recognizing an established artist working in the medium 
of photography. This exhibition and the accompanying 
book, which present a coherent overview of Angela 
Grauerholz’s career, is a prestigious acknowledgement 
of her outstanding contribution to the field.

Presented by Scotiabank, organized in partnership with the Ryerson Image Centre

Curated by Paul Roth & Gaëlle Morel

Angela Grauerholz, artist/photographer and graphic designer, has been exhibited and collected widely in Canada, the US, and Europe. She has participated in many international events of distinction including the Sydney Biennale (1990), documenta IX (1992), the Carnegie International (1995) and the Montréal Biennale (2004). She was awarded several prestigious prizes for her accomplishments in the arts, such as Québec’s Prix Paul-Émile Borduas (2006), the Canada Council’s Governor General Award in Visual and Media Arts (2014), and in 2015 the distinguished Scotiabank Photography Award (Toronto). As Full Professor at the École de design, UQAM (Université du Québec in Montréal)—where she also directed the Centre de design (2008 to 2012)—she taught typography and photography from 1988 to 2017. In 2019, the Emily Carr University of Art + Design awarded her an Honorable Doctorate of Letters.