Photo finish

Repixx artists charged with the task of interpreting Chr!s Sm!th's shots of Nova Scotian musicians.

Visual musicians Chr!s Sm!th is asking bands he shoots to interpret his photos. photo Scott Blackburn

It's Wednesday evening at Argyle Fine Art and Chr!s Sm!th and Argyle director Adriana Afford are surrounded by a few dozen half-packed frames containing Sm!th's photos of musicians and artists' responses to them. Sm!th and Afford are getting ready to take Repixxto Nova Scotia Music Week, and this is the first time that all the pieces are in the same room. Repixx---a collaboration between Sm!th and 15 visual artists---began as a conversation between Sm!th and Afford in the spring. "Chr!s came into the gallery," says Afford, "and he said, 'I would like to do a show---what are you doing for Photopolis?'" Sm!th suggested asking artists to respond to his photographs, and that's what they did, with the show ready in time for both (photography festival) Photopolis and NSMW.

"He had been looking for a way for artists to work together anyway," Afford explains, "he's doing photos but he's usually working with musicians." Unlike the music and film worlds, she says, "visual artists generally work on their own...they don't usually connect with each other." Sm!th says that Repixx has already brought artists together---a group of them planned a hiking trip during NSMW. "I love that," Sm!th says, "that, in itself, is why the show is happening."

Repixx also offers an excuse for photo lovers, gallery-goers and music fans to mingle. "People who know my work, who don't know these artists will get to see their work, and vice versa," Sm!th says. "All these artists' fans will have an excuse to look up some of these bands that they've maybe heard of or never listened to...the whole purpose of the show is community."

Sm!th, a drummer with an English degree who used to work at an ad agency, has been taking photos of musicians and bands full-time for five years. He says he's still mildly addicted to narration. "It's really important to me to sit down with a band and talk to them, and listen to the lyrics and things like that," he says, "because that's how it becomes original." Sm!th's photos don't feature bands on couches or in front of brick walls. "Most of these photos have a story behind them," he says. The photo of The Novaks (painted by Kevin Lewis) is based on "Doesn't Anybody Hear It," a song about how bands are judged by their appearances. They are posed ironically as mannequins in an empty storefront in Newfoundland.

The Superfantastics were shot in a room with paper airplanes flying around them. "Their last few albums have been very paper-based," Sm!th explains. "Her (drummer Stephanie d'Entremont) boyfriend, father and her father's girlfriend were throwing planes. It was, collect and click, collect and click." Teresa Bergen's response is a colourful ceramic wall hanging of the photo shoot with the duo as two moveable figures surrounded by miniature paper airplanes.

For Wintersleep, Sm!th experimented with mixing and matching many photos of the band, using scissors and tape. Felt and embroidery artist Blythe Church was inspired by Sm!th's use of layers of tape, as well as a recent trip to the Royal Ontario Museum in which she had looked at pinned bugs ("the kind you study in elementary school"). "I was interested in the different colours and layers and the way that he cut their bodies into different parts," she says. Church transformed Wintersleep into Eupawinterus sleepicornus, four beetles that correspond to the four members of the band in the photograph, with distinctive markings and Shrinky Dinks legs, mounted in a frame.

Other works in Repixx include a Gulliver's Travels-inspired painting of Matt Mays by Gordon MacDonald, a painting of Joel Plaskett by Sara Caracristi, Ed Beal's pixelated Zoobombs, a large Douglas fir wood-cut poster of Matt Anderson by Albertan artist Lisa Brown and an animation of Old Man Luedecke by Coast cartoonist Mike Holmes.

The connections between Halifax's artists and musicians are myriad: Bergen is married to Chris Luedecke, and Church's boyfriend is in The Gideons. "Everybody really is connected," says Afford, "we are all able to connect, maybe not all the time, but occasionally you can, and when you do, you get these amazing shows."

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