Greg Klassen

This exhibition opens on Friday, Mar. 6th, 6:00–8:00 PM
Exhibition runs through Sunday, Mar. 22nd, 2015
Gallery Hours:
Saturdays and Sundays, 12 to 4 pm,
or by appointment.

Artist Talk — Saturday, Mar. 21st, 1:00 pm


In the wake of the profound influence that Postmodernist Ideology has had on contemporary arts culture, especially in North America, it has been the trend to reinterpret ‘identity’ to be synonymous with ‘cultural identity’ — to forefront cultural/social context and content to the detriment of considerations of the individual.

The realization that postmodernist theorizing may be “philosophically hostile” to a segment of humanity considered neurologically distinct — a segment that Greg, having been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, belongs to — is relatively recent and has not yet made any appreciable impression on arts culture and arts production.

Why should we care?

Well… postmodernists often explore — even celebrate — a sense of cultural dislocation. Having a neurological makeup like Asperger’s means there is no native culture, any social condition is, a priori, one of dislocation. What the postmodernist fetishizes, Greg must live. In the postmodern view, identity, if it can be said to exist at all, is a matter of choice. For the neurologically distinct there is no such choice.

Greg, not surprisingly, has focussed his artistic attention — and intention — on the exploration of personal identity formation. In doing so he has found a friend in photography. Because of photography’s directness — its perceived indexicality — the medium provides a peculiar sense of connectedness arguably absent from other visual media while simultaneously maintaining an emotional distance.

A space is opened up between subject, artist, and audience that is simultaneously frustrating and compelling: an In-Between space. Imagining this space is perhaps as close as others may come to envisioning the space people such as Greg inhabit daily in social contexts. The very notion of disability, of some form of personal or social dysfunction resides in this in‐between space. It is this space, and the effect — affect? — of its exploration that Greg wishes to share with his audience: a glimpse at the self from a new vantage point.

The project — materially a series of portraits-in-landscape-form, constructed from perceived fragments of identity through extensive dialogue with subjects — interrogates not just how subjects see themselves but how/if that sense of self-perception can be conveyed to an audience in the form of a non-linear narrative through a medium — photography — that traditionally has been thought incapable of conveying narrative content. Thus, the perceived narrative disability of photography is a direct analogue to the ‘Aspies’ perceived social disability. Thus, if these complex constructions of a person’s sense of self — built up from anywhere between 30 and 300 separate photographs — can, in some meaningful way, transmit the personal narrative of one person’s sense of self to a diverse audience, then there is hope for such as Greg to engage meaningfully in contemporary society despite — no, perhaps because — of this neurological condition and the unique perspective it allows for. If this is so, then the neurologically distinct are not simply outside of society — disabled, curiosities — but sources of meaningful insight into what it means to be human, valuable members of society as well as distinct individuals.

Greg Klassen was born just outside of Cologne, Germany as the third of three sons into a Diplomat family in Canada’s Foreign Services. Moving around Europe every couple of years, Greg was exposed at an early age to diverse cultures, languages etc. This rich experience — and the accompanying sense of cultural dislocation — stayed with him and informed his artistic explorations (in particular his interest in the notion of “Duality”). Early on Greg showed great interest in the arts, drawing nature at every opportunity. He got his first camera at 14 and by the age of 16 was teaching himself Ansel Adams’s ‘Zone System’ in his basement darkroom.

Greg was encouraged to follow a career in the sciences and he eventually graduated with a PhD in Marine Biogeography from the University of Toronto. But his love for the arts (photography in particular) never left him. During his time as a student Greg paid his way through school as a scientific illustrator and he spent hundreds of hours photographing microscopic specimens. It was during this time that Greg recognized an increasing sense of internal duality emerging from the building tension between his artistic and scientific directions.

In the early 1990s Greg and his wife moved to New Brunswick as part of a life-style choice. In 2006 Greg participated in a workshop with Freeman Patterson which changed forever his creative direction. Since then Greg has been honing his photography, including the use of visual metaphors in his explorations.

In 2012 Greg and his family — including wife, two children, one cat, two dogs, and 8 goats — moved to Salt Spring Island. They are now living in the South End and enjoying the challenges of developing a new circle of friends and establishing a professional presence. Greg is working hard at reestablishing his arts practice in this vibrant and energizing community. After an ~30 year career as a scientist, Greg earned a Diploma in Visual Arts from the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design in 2009; in 2010 he was named Emerging Artist of the Year by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, and in 2012 he graduated with a Masters of Applied Arts from Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

Greg has participated in over 30 group and solo exhibits. His work can be found in numerous public and private collections in Canada and abroad.

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