David Ferguson - Reviews

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Fruit of Consequence:  Review by Debbie O'Rourke 2000

Tulip, squash, snakeskin, shark, swallowtail, milkweed, map, seeds, cellophane, daffodil, larva, gasket, gear, blueprint, nest, jackfruit, moth, metal, wood, feather, gnawed grey bone....
During the Renaissance, still-life paintings of fruit and fowl were created to celebrate the wealth of patrons. In his “Fruit of Consequence” , photographer David Ferguson used the expansive space of the Photo Passage at Harbourfront to lay out a cornucopia of man-made and natural objects in an opulent display of planetary wealth.

Seduced by the rich colour, the eye wanders into the depths of the large format colour compositions like an ant to whom a moldering squash is truly a moon to be explored. If we are occasionally shocked at coming face to face with a live caterpillar or a grinning shark, it is exactly what Ferguson intends. “Beauty is an entrance into this subject-matter. I use sensuality to lure the viewer into examining the relationships between the objects and between the types of objects that are in the photographs.”
For the past 15 years, Ferguson has used a 4”by 5” camera to give maximum detail and depth of field. Through subtle employment of a variety of light sources, he exercises a painterly control over his compositions. A warmly-lit section of squash pops out like a planet against companion objects softly bathed in blue. An underlying map may gradually shift from blue to red. The shadows are softly tinted. During the long exposures the photographer moves some of the objects, creating animated blurs of form and colour.

Ferguson is interested in both biological and mechanical life. He strives to create arrangements that are, in his words, ‘unnaturally viable’. Human inventions like maps and calculators are juxtaposed with animal technologies: a wasp nest or a piece of wood that has been drilled by a sapsucker. Sometimes Ferguson will introduce a further manipulation: fastening a piece of wasp paper with a wooden skewer or , in “Archer”, penetrating a gourd with porcupine quills.

The subtle use of light fosters a candlelit courtship of man and nature. As in marriage the viewer falls in love with a vision, is shocked, then either retraces her steps or gathers her courage to embrace the whole. Thus we fall in love with an opaline lens only to see it metamorphose into a crumpled plastic lid. Though many viewers may recoil upon being suddenly confronted by a dead bird or a piece of garbage, the artist finds this offal beautiful and gives it all equal weight in his compositions. “These things that we know and that we do are not intrinsically evil” he states.

It’s impossible to omit installation details when describing an exhibition by Ferguson, for he’s a master at solving spatial problems. The Photo Passage is a challenge: a broad curved hallway with a thirty-foot ceiling. The prints were fastened flush to the wall with wooden strips. Like giant rectangular portholes they enhanced the architectural excitement, maximizing the impact of the lush worlds within.

Artist Statements
from Morocco to Rococo
the Conquest of Tahiti
Fruit of Consequence
Debbie O’Rourke 2000