Helma Sawatzky

Much of my art practice is informed by a simultaneous enchantment with and concern for the increasing presence of the screen and myriad forms of digital mediation in daily life experiences. I am interested in how the digital interface affects and redirects the ways in which we interact with each other and with our environment and how we negotiate a parallel existence in both reality and virtuality.  I currently work with the photographic medium in both its analog and digital incarnations as it embodies the threshold between reality and digital construct.

A while ago I decided that my time had come to take on the role of virtual tourist and embark on a Grand Tour of cyberspace in the hope of expanding my horizons and exposing myself to a firsthand experience of virtual worlds. In the spirit of a nineteenth century Grand Tour, I set out to behold all those virtual vistas, monuments and cabinets of curiosities as may be encountered in virtuality. My travels through one of today's self-proclaimed leading online worlds, Second Life, took place in the fall of 2008 from my home in Surrey BC, Canada. I went sightseeing in several of its virtual domains and photographed my screen from my embodied existence in real time and space similar to how I would approach my 'real life' holiday snapshots. The large C-prints produced from these negatives give presence to the 'woolly' RGB phosphors of my CRT monitor: the phosphor dots simultaneously deconstruct the image as a 'light show' and call up associations with a hand embroidered surface.

Scatter Plots is a series of digital C-prints that continue on where German photographer Thomas Ruff's JPEG series left off. Whereas his work focuses on the compression processes that abstract the image information in a digital photograph, the Scatter Plots series stages its smallest unit, the pixel, as both medium and metaphor. I use pixelation to create moments of rupture within the image, moments which expose the 'nature' of digital photography pixels on a grid, moments which engage the capacity of the human mind to impute missing data, moments that activate the image as a façade signifying both our desire and the ephemeral experience of nature. The title Scatter Plots plays on the essence of the digital image as a grid of data points.  The pixel traps many binary motions: it simultaneously constructs and deconstructs, it renders detail and abstracts image information, it represents 'reality' and conjures up illusions.

2009    MA in Communication, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
2009    BFA in Visual Arts & Photography Emily Carr University, Vancouver
2000 - 2002    Desktop Publishing Associate Certificate —With Honours, BC Institute of Technology, Burnaby
1996 - 1997    Management Development for Residential Settings Certificate, Justice Institute of British
1986 - 1992    BMus in Music Education & Contemporary Voice, Stedelijk Conservatorium, Groningen,
                          The Netherlands
Group Exhibitions
2010    Winter, Elliott Louis Gallery, Vancouver
2010    Surrey Art Gallery. Arts 2010. Surrey BC, Canada (juried exhibition, second prize)
2009    Elliott Louis Gallery. Emergence 2009: The Unexpected and Unpredictable. Vancouver
2009    Surrey Art Gallery. Arts 2009. Surrey BC, Canada (juried exhibition, first prize)
2009    Winsor Gallery. Emily Carr University Award Winners. Vancouver BC, Canada
2009    Surrey Art Gallery. Earth Matters. Surrey BC, Canada (juried exhibition, third prize)
2008    Concourse Gallery. Mixed Messages.  Vancouver BC, Canada
2007    Concourse Gallery. RED. Vancouver BC, Canada
2007    A Rocha Field Study Centre. Created Life 2007. White Rock BC, Canada
2006    A Rocha Field Study Centre. Created Life 2006. White Rock BC, Canada
2010    Joseph-Armand Bombardier Graduate Scholarship
2009    The Governor General’s Academic Medal 2008 – 2009
2008    Alvin Balkind Memorial Scholarship
2007    Emily Carr Institute Achievement Scholarship
2007    McGraw-Hill Ryerson Student Scholarship Award
2006    Datatel Scholars Foundation Scholarship