Meet the Artist in Residence: Moira Ness

Moira Ness, artist in residence at Main Street Arts, during the month of May 2018, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Moira some questions about her work and studio practice:

Moira Ness working in her studio

Moira Ness working in her studio

Q: Tell us about your background?
I grew up in Etobicoke, Ontartio, a suburb of Toronto. I still live there! My studio, located in Walnut Studios, is in downtown Toronto. It is a nice balance of spending my days in the busy city and heading home to the quieter and greener suburbs. Aside from some sporadic courses I am entirely self taught. I briefly attended Ryerson University for Image Arts, but quickly realized the program was not for me and continued my practice on my own.

Q: How long have you been making artwork?
My first hands on artistic experience with a camera were photo assignments given to me in my early high school photo classes, so just over 10 years ago. They were mostly portraits of my friends on the school property or architecture of the school itself. I still have some of these prints/film! It wasn’t until I received my first DSLR that I really started experimenting idea wise. I started using Photoshop intensively, learning as much as I could from online forums/tutorials with A LOT of trial and error. At the time I really enjoyed superimposing people onto landscapes and was partial to very harsh contrast and filters. I almost exclusively produced work with people/models being the focus, quite different from my current landscapes.


“Caledonia” from Moira’s Nightscapes series

Q: How would you describe your art?
My photography explores landscapes, both urban and rural, with subtle digital manipulations. These manipulations usually simplify a landscape, removing backgrounds or covering up light sources. My goal is to make it appear like the photo is untouched, when in reality I have quietly constructed the final outcome. I consider myself to be a photo-based artist, but I have recently been experimenting with other mediums. Moving forward my works deal with more digital themes, like text algorithms and encryption software, as well as mixed media pieces with simple painting and ink.

Dark Powder

Dark Powder” from Moira’s HEX series

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I have two series I am currently working on. The first is an expansion of the photo series “Cyclical”. Cyclical explores Friedrich Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence/eternal return. Nietzsche believed that all events in cosmic history have repeated, and will continue to repeat, in an endless cycle.

In this series I experiment with the idea of eternal recurrence through forced visual repetition. I overlap sections of a photograph in a mirror-like style and then digitally manipulate them to blend seamlessly into the natural background. The limb of a tree is mirrored and then blended to match the opposite foliage. This is in an attempt to compress the time-based theory of eternal recurrence into a series of two-dimensional representations.

A Literal Prophecy

“A Literal Prophecy” from Moira’s series Cyclical.

I started this series last year at a different residency in Upstate NY. I knew I wanted to return to the area to explore more of the region and was very excited about Clifton Springs and the Finger Lakes area.

Her Absence Fills The Spring

“Her Absence Fills The Spring” from Moira’s Cyclical series.

My other project is tentatively named “Numeric Routes”. This work focuses on the graphic representation of raw telecommunication data, merging visualized systemic information with highlighted personal connections. Hundreds of black lines join hundreds of black numbers, forming an entanglement of visualized telecommunication data. Every area code, out of context, lies in a consecutive row of numbers. 415 comes before 416, and 417 comes after, all in circles on a wood panel.


Progress shot from work on “Numerical Routes” series during Moira’s residency.

I am creating a group of nine connected 16” x 16” wood panels, with three connected rows of three. Each panel has a large outline of a circle on it. The outline is made up of consecutive numbers with 100 numbers per panel. The first panel has numbers 100-199, the second panel has numbers 200-299, etc. I want to fuse these numbers with their telecommunication meaning. For example: 647, 416, 289 are all Toronto related area codes. On each relevant panel (panels six, four and two) the numbers 647 and 416 would have a black line drawn between them. 647 and 289 would also have a line drawn connecting them, as well as 289 and 416.

I would continue to create connections between all the different area codes from 100-999 in this manner. Some area codes are not related to anything, in which case a black line would be drawn outwards and off the panels. I will reveal my own personal archive through subtle visual accentuation. I want the viewer to find their own personal connection to a number and then coax them to follow its path through the entangled lines of information.


Detail shot from work on “Numerical Routes” series during Moira’s residency

Q: What is next for you?
I hope to expand my “Numeric Route” series into a whole body of work upon my return to Toronto. I will be participating in the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. TOAE is Canada’s largest, longest running juried contemporary outdoor art fair. Last year at TOAE I won the Emerging Artist Award and was shortlisted for the Founding Chairman’s Award.

I have a solo show, “Nightscapes II” at Akasha Arts in Toronto in September and a show, “Darling…” in Montreal, also in September. “Darling…” merges my own algorithm generated writing with Keight Maclean’s traditional Italian portraiture. I directly write on her canvas/wood panels before or after she adorns them with her painting.


Q: Tell us more about the workshop you are hosting on May 25!
I will be taking a group of participants on a walk around Clifton Springs to find some interesting night photography locations to photograph in the style of my “Nightscapes” series! I have already scouted out some cool locations and I am excited to share these with the workshop participants! I will teach them what camera settings to use, how to set up a tripod and how to edit the photos. By the end of the workshop they will be able to take and edit a beautiful night shot! I will have my camera and tripod available to use in case someone doesn’t own one or the other. I will also have my laptop available during the day to use Photoshop at my studio at Main Street Arts. You can sign up for the workshop here.

Vaughan Mills

“Vaughan Mills” from Moira’s Nightscape series.

Q: Where else can we find you?
You can visit my website:
Instagram: @moiraness
Twitter: @moiraness

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