Virginia Mak on her latest series, Composed

Read Virginia Mak's thoughts on her most recent body of work, Composed, which will be featured in Bau-Xi Vancouver's upcoming group Exhibition, "Her" opening on Saturday, August 10.

Virginia Mak, Composed 16, available for sale at Bau-Xi Gallery

"In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the character Marianne is described as “eager in everything; her sorrows and joys could have no moderation.” To me, she personifies “sensibility.”

As humans, we derive meaning and pleasure from making something. This series, titled Composed, consists of photographic portraits that imply a certain artistic sensibility. I wanted to visually depict the undeterred spirit of originality. For that, I used a film camera and a paintbrush.

I photographed writers, editors, actors, painters, visual artists and other individuals. I then painted on rice paper lines and shapes that serve as subtle hints about the subject or their work. Working in the darkroom with film negatives, I placed the painted rice paper over the photographic paper during the enlarging process.

There is both tension and harmony in choosing to use this layering process. It obscures a portion of the image while adding other elements to it. The painted lines and motifs reveal my reflections about the “creators.”  For example, in an image of a caregiver who finds time to embroider, my drawing referenced water and gardens in order to evoke her dreaming of her home faraway. Likewise, in an image of an artist who delves into ice formations in her work, I included translucent ice-like elements in my composition.

My intention was to compose collages that blend content with colours and shapes. The content may be true, fictive, mysterious or playful. The resulting photographs shift from straight portraits to more poetic pictures." 


Virginia Mak was born in Hong Kong. After graduating with a Philosophy Degree from the University of Calgary, she went on to study Photography at the Ontario College of Art. Mak has exhibited her work internationally. She is a recipient of project, exhibition and travel grants from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. Her work has been written about in the Calgary Herald, the Toronto Star, the Vancouver Sun and the Globe and Mail; and featured in magazines such as Prefix and PhotoLife. Mak's photographs can be found in the Canada Council Art Bank and the Toronto Archives, among other public and private collections throughout North America and Hong Kong.



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