ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present Living For The Fame, a solo exhibition in the Project Space by Toronto-based Chris Ironside. The show runs from October 4 to 27, 2018, with a public opening with the artist on Thursday, Oct. 4 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
"I fake it so real, I am beyond fake," sings Courtney Love in Doll Parts, a song from her band Hole's 1994 album Live Through This. In it, Love sings of the vexation she feels as she remakes herself in an attempt to gain attention from a man. In our post-Internet age, when we can (re)create ourselves and 'curate' our lives on social media, the song's themes around frustrated attention-seeking and suppressing one's true self in order to be 'liked' seem prescient.
Chris Ironside focuses on one of the ironies inherent in our use of social media in his ongoing project Living For The Fame. Many people spend hours 'curating' their social media feeds and apps - choosing profile photos that flatter their looks, posting photographs that make their lives look carefree - only for them to disappear completely (Snapchat), be swiped past in a few seconds (dating apps) or slip from the top of the feed within an hour (Instagram). "In Living For The Fame, I'm spending time with images that most people consider throwaway," Ironside explains. "I am giving more consideration to these images than the subjects ever expected ... they are really invitations to something - friendships, dates or hook-ups."
Ironside sources his images primarily from Tumblr, Instagram, Grindr and Scruff. By drawing from such platforms, the work illustrates that LGBT people have an unprecedented level of control over their own self-representation and their ability to network (while, conversely, feeling the pressure to conform to certain ideals). He sees no ethical conundrums in working from other people's photographs since they already exist in the public realm and the subjects are rarely within his immediate social circle. Nor do the final drawings look exactly like their subjects, though he does maintain the overall look and mood of the photograph. His background in photography contributes to his skill in conveying light, shadow and dimension in his drawings. Ironside doesn't necessarily seeks out 'dramatic' photographs; rather he is attracted to humour, interesting poses, or images that have been put through so many filters that they verge on the uncanny. "There's this sense of desire," says Ironside. "A desire to be engaged with, to be looked at and admired, which is why all of the figures face us. They are looking at us in the hopes of being looked at."
The installation in the Project Space finds viewers situated in the midst of a conversation with text-based works - the words drawn from pop songs, including the aforementioned lyrics from Doll Parts - accompanying a selection of drawings that scale-up the size of the original images. "The show also asks us to consider the images that we post with desire and anticipation," says Ironside. "Will someone - anyone - look back at us?" Indeed, if Love had written the song in 2018, instead of cake, perhaps she'd want to be the girl with the most likes.
- Bill Clarke