Aesthetics

Karen Eull bridges the gap between old-school art and modern technology.

Christmas, 2002 / No. 9
Photograph by Karen Eull
Karen Eull

Acrobat, a still from the series Ether, 2001.

When Karen Eull was about six years old, her childhood friend told her the story of her great aunt Ming. As the tale went, Aunt Ming’s hobby was to visit schoolyards after class had finished for the day and leave behind a variety of toys for the children to find upon their arrival the next morning. Aunt Ming lived in an era when television dials stopped at channel 13; before VCRs, video games, and the internet replaced hopscotch, marbles, and jacks. So it’s likely Ming’s simple gifts of buttons and ribbon were looked upon as treasure by those lucky enough to stumble across her anonymous surprises.

Eull always remembered her friend’s story and, in 1999, decided to pick up where Aunt Ming left off, even if for just a day. Retaining the spirit of Ming’s era, Eull purchased an armful of generic toys and piled them into three groups in the yard of Charles G. Fraser Junior Public School, located in the Queen and Bathurst area. She brought her camera along to document the event, and a photo exhibit, The Great Aunt Ming Project, was born. Ironically, when Eull related what she had done, her childhood friend “didn’t even remember the story.”

While Eull continues experimenting with still photography, mainly for use in book collaborations, most of her work of late has been in the area of digitally animated photography—photographs altered by computer to give movement to selected elements; a cross between still photography and film. Eull has staged numerous exhibitions across Canada since graduating with a B.F.A. in art history from Montreal’s Concordia University in 1996, but only recently took her first photography course. Oddly, she does not consider herself a photographer, nor does she consider herself to be a very technically inclined person. Perhaps indicative of how computer technology is continuously encroaching on the art world, Eull considers herself simply an artist. “When I have an idea, I just go to the medium best suited to that idea,” she says. “I think people will always go back to the aesthetics [of old technology], but things are blurring more and more.”

Photograph by Karen Eull
Photograph by Karen Eull
Photograph by Karen Eull
Photograph by Karen Eull
Stills from the series Marigold Library, 1999.
Photograph by Karen Eull
Still from The Great Aunt Ming Project, 1999.
Photograph by Karen Eull
Still from The Great Aunt Ming Project, 1999.