Mitch Mitchell. The Silence.
Perhaps in the world's destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. The silence.
Cormac McCarthy The Road
As one views the sublime, deeply haunting printed works in Mitch Mitchells Cities of the Prairies and The Longing Focal, there is a profound sense of silence. Strange when considering visual work, that sound or a lack thereof should come into play, and while Mitchells work is soundless, it is not mute. As one reads page after wordless page in these seductive books, one image melts into the next and a sense of foreboding and unrest takes hold. Small, subtle characters emerge above and beneath quiet, tense surfaces and a story of desolation, danger, and seduction unfolds. The danger is intangible, a prickly awakening of ones spidey senses as what one reads as landscape morphs into a human skin, a frozen lake, a deserted quarry, and back to a snow-covered field. Its difficult to tell if the surfaces in the image are organic or manmade, if they are of the present or future. Their eerie skin is flesh-like, but a frozen, lost, post-apocalyptic kind of flesh. There are piercings in this dermis, and dark forms lie under its surface. The few bright, electric spots of light burn coldly on barren flesh. What rests beneath the skin? What happened here? Where are we? What are we left with? Is it silence?
We search for the real in what we see. We want truth in documentary media, photographs and documents of the world around us. Canadian documentary photographer Edward Burtynsky darkly and beautifully captures the ravages of industry at specific places on the planet. Butynskys straight photography offers viewers site-specific views of the environmental impact manufacturers have had on China, India, Canada, and the United States. Mitchell makes a point of removing all points of reference within his prints- scale, horizon, physical markers that might help his viewer link the image to a specific time or place, a particular scene. In so doing, his scenes become universal and strangely personal, deeply intimate. Mitchells truth is manipulated. He digitally alters the photographs he takes of scenes he constructs in his studio using the detritus of his surrounding environment; latex, wire and bits of candy and rubber. His pilgrimage for truth led him to duplicity, to creating an ethereal landscape and prickly skin.
These prints reveal a mature understanding of our precarious standing on this planet. While unwilling to take an overtly political or environmental stand, his work warns of a place that may be all that is left after we take from it what we see as ours tellingly eerie, foreboding, and dangerous places. These prints speak viscerally, of the body, of our humanity and of the thin skin we share with our surroundings. Despite their dark, quiet sensibility, these prints are revealingly erudite.
Chief Curator of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Curator of the Sobey Art Award