Petra Malá Miller   Portraits in Light

September 25, 2015 - November 22, 2015

Opening Reception: September 26, 2015 at 8 PM
Reception sponsored by North & Company LLP

Portraits in Light features hundreds of photographs, each following an exacting compositional structure: a central subject free of adornment, clothing and makeup; the setting unknown, the gaze non-direct, the expression neutral.  Their seriality calls to mind the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, yet without austerity they feel more like Vermeer paintings bathed in light and tenderness, each subject lovingly considered and carefully seen.  They are at once a series of individuals and together a portrait of a community - the artist's community. 

Exploring notions of displacement, belonging and the subjectivity of the present, Petra Malá Miller has methodically photographed people she knows in Lethbridge, Alberta.  Starting with family and close friends and radiating out to colleagues and acquaintances, her photographs capture the artist and sitter in a moment of shared vulnerability.  As portraits often do, they become a reflection of the artist herself. 

Throughout her practice, Malá Miller has raised questions surrounding cultural identity, the individual, family and community.  She was born in the former Czechoslovakia and grew up in Blatnice, a village in southern Moravia.  In 2008, she returned to her home to piece together fragments of personal and family history in a series titled, And She Said She Is Looking.  Conflating her own recollections with those of her mother's, Malá Miller filtered memories and reveries through an emotional process of recollection and translation.  Another work, The Voice Reached Us through the Floor, but the Words Themselves Were Lost (2009-10), relocates memory in both time and place.  In this series of photographs taken in Lethbridge, Malá Miller reconstructed narratives of her youth in Czechoslovakia during a time of revolution.  Drawing on the inherently selective nature of memory, Malá Miller's works have navigated the space between the real and the imaginary, truth and fiction, memory and forgetting. 

Similarly, Portraits in Light occupies liminal space. In the artist's own words: "I use photography because at its most powerful it combines the fictive with the descriptive: the cinematic with the documentary; fiction and the imaginary infused with truth."

Petra Malá Miller earned her MFA from the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, Prague in 2008.  In 2009, she received the ESSL Museum Award for contemporary Art, Klosterneuburg, Vienna.  She received Alberta Foundation for the Arts awards for her photography and is represented in the AFA's Art Collection. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions including: The Intimate Circle in Contemporary Czech Photography, Landskrona Museum, Sweden (2015) and at the City Gallery of Prague (2013); The Voice Reached Us Through the Floor, but the Words Themselves Were Lost, Jiri Svestka Gallery, Prague (2011), Trianon Gallery, Lethbridge (2012) and Harbourfront Centre, Toronto (2013); Inter-view, Nitra Gallery, Nitra (2010); Czech It, Space Gallery, Pittsburg (2009).  The artist is represented by the Jiri Svestka Gallery, Berlin.

The Southern Alberta Art Gallery is proud to début Petra Malá Miller's Portraits in Light.  This exhibition is organized by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and curated by Christina Cuthbertson.  Funding assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the City of Lethbridge. 

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