The practice of photography found its way to artist Alex Kisilevich originally by accident. While in the third year of his music degree, Alex was required to pick a course in the fine art department, with the caveat that it couldn’t be related to music in any way. “I chose a photography class on a whim,” he reflects now.
A little while later, “when I started spending all of my time setting up photos and printing in the darkroom instead of music, I knew this was something I wanted to pursue,” Alex tells It's Nice That. Ending up then going to art school to study photography and completing an MFA in visual arts, Alex firmly put music aside, and has spent the past decade making artworks.
Operating a unique practice merging sculpture and photography into a hybrid of art, it’s funny considering his introduction to creativity, but viewers rarely think of Alex as someone standing behind the lens. “Since my work straddles a few different mediums, and because it plays with illusionary properties of these mediums, sometimes it’s hard to categorise my work,” he adds.
For the most part, however, Alex describes his practice as “photography-based, though I’m not often called a photographer.” Largely this is because taking a photograph is one of the later steps in his process, which involves collecting materials, building these into something, and then forming it into an image. The act of taking the photograph is its own process too, as Alex works with a large-format camera and prints his works on a Chromira printer “which uses the same light-sensitive paper as darkroom printing,” he explains.
Working from a studio full of “objects, textiles, building supplies – it’s a big mess and hard to walk in,” he notes. The results are pieces which often take a familiar object but somehow trick you into thinking it must be something else. In one of our favourites, for instance, a fruit tray, the little cardboard beds avocados usually sleep in, are photographed together and so close up that it almost looks like drawing. “My photographs can be sculptural in nature, either in subject matter (where I build or repurpose objects and photograph them) or at times, the way they are presented,” describes the artist.
What the artist hints at here is his playful ability to shape the space his artworks visit into the piece itself. Stemming from a want to “make pieces that ‘blend’ into their surroundings,” in time, Alex found himself “acknowledging the spaces that the works are exhibited in,” he tells us. “A work on a wall isn’t just a work on a wall when it’s in a gallery space.”
As a result, Alex’s pieces morph when in exhibition settings. In one instance, he cuts a hole out to make adequate space for an air vent that would otherwise be covered up. In another, Alex somehow manages to make the very rigid object of a frame feel floppy and fluid, wrapping around a bench. “It can be funny just to think of the sheer work involved in building the frames or bending acrylic, just to get a piece to fit around an object,” adds the artist.
Despite viewers not ever knowing quite how to describe him, or knowing exactly how his works are created, Alex’s whole practice is relatively transparent. He even has a dedicated side project showcasing the objects which make up his artworks called In Situ, which purposefully zooms in on these transitional moments. Considering that his usual last step is to photograph a piece and then discard it, “this ongoing project is also a way for me to provide homage to the objects – a way of saying goodbye as some of them live with me for a long time and are hard to let go,” adds Alex.
With a selection of work currently on display at Dianna Witte Gallery in Toronto, an upcoming show of his In Situ pieces next year, and also the introduction of video to his practice to watch out for, we look forward to seeing how Alex may trick our eyes next.
Alex Kisilevich: Curtains 1, 2, 3
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.