Sylvia Grace Borda

Sylvia Grace Borda is Canadian-born artist who has worked in Northern Ireland and Scotland for almost a decade. She is interested in re-addressing public views about specific socio-cultural landscapes and how cultural symbols may be co-opted to form new media platforms. Within this context, her artwork often embodies how both print and image have altered popular cultural perceptions of, for example, the landscape; shifting in time from savage spaces to the sublime, or idealized zones to the controlled. Her practice spans working in early photographic genres, optics, film, as well as emergent media technologies, such as use of aerial drones and online platforms, namely Google Streetview online map platform.  

Borda has been producing socially engaged and contemporary artwork for well over a decade. Using photography, video, emergent technologies and her vast knowledge of Art History she studies, researches, and responds to changing urban and rural landscapes. Much of her work consists of carefully composed images varying from stereo-works to multi-dimensional tableaux produced in Google Streetview. One of her Frontiers in Retreat projects even involved constructing a camera obscura-inspired snow-camera in Mustarinda, Finland. 

In her latest photographic opus, This one's for the farmer, Borda portrays the social realities of contemporary farm life. Her work borrows from painting and historical photographic vocabularies in which she pays homage to specific historical references. While using art history as a foundation to inform her production, Borda collaborates with communities to accurately produce narratives that become contemporary portraits of our time and provide reflections on wider social conditions.

Borda was invited to take part in the Frontiers in Retreat project by Nuno Sacramento, former Curator and artistic director of Scottish Sculpture Workshop (SSW). While in residence at SSW, Borda brought together a number of young girls and senior inhabitants of the small countryside community of Lumsden, in Aberdeen, to create a unique Lumsden shortbread. In a region, where majority of the traditional baking business has been taken over by big corporates (SSW is situated in the former bakery of the village), the local shortbread, made with heritage recipes and with imprints depicting local flora, pave way to small-scale alternative economy in the village. As one of the outcomes of the project, the group of girls working with Borda started their own shortbread company. The Lumsden Biscuit project provides an example of the ways in which Borda aims to reassign value to underappreciated regions, cultural traditions and sociocultural landscapes.

Another example of this is Borda's continuous interest in rural communities and socio-cultural landscapes, a somewhat marginal area of interest in today's contemporary art. With the aim of providing new, unromanticised imagery of the countryside, namely small-scale farming, Borda uses her photographic language to portrait contemporary agricultural production and ways of living. In 2014, as part of her Frontiers in Retreat residency at HIAP, Borda traveled extensively across northern Finland, photographing diverse agriculture, food production, preparation and retail facilities. Through her research she found out that Finland contains half of the world's arable land north of the 60°N latitude. Supported by HIAP and even The Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK) in Finland, Borda produced a body of work offering intimate insights into Finland’s agricultural resources, practices and peoples. Finland has only recently shifted away from an agrarian-based country where nearly 60% of the population was involved in agricultural production up until the mid 1950s. Borda's portrayals of farming reach far beyond the romantic stereotypical notions viewers might hold ranging from new perspectives on Lapland to intensive farming or green house production. Realised in cooperation with Google Streetview online map service and consequently with their trusted photographer, the outcomes of the labor and resource intense project can be viewed at all times officially embedded within Google Streetview. Consequently, the portraits which by their aesthetics reference art historical masterpieces by painters such as Rembrandt, become detached from the notion that Susan Sontag called the 'fixed frame' and instead explorable in three dimensions.

Borda's solo exhibitions include Camera Histories, Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow (2013-14); Aerial Fields, Surrey Urban Screen, Canada (2013-14); Churches: Coming to the Table, Belfast Exposed Gallery (2012); Interrogations of the Camera, & Other Works, A&D Gallery, London, UK; Cameras and Watercolour Sunsets, CSA Space Vancouver (2010); A Holiday in Glenrothes, Royal Institute of Architect's Scotland Gallery, Edinburgh (2008); EK Modernism, CSA Space (2007); New Town Passages, EKAC Galleries, Glasgow (2006); Minimalist Portraits, SAW Art Gallery, Ottawa (2005); andEvery Bus Stop in Surrey, BC, Surrey Art Gallery, Canada (2005). Borda has received a number of public grants and awards including the BC Innovation and Media Grant (2013); City of Richmond Public Art Commission: ArtHouse (2013-14) and No.4 Pump Station (2010-11); Public Works Association of British Columbia (PWABC) 2011 Project of the Year award for No 4 Pump Station and Best Public Works Project for the Province of British ACEC Award of Excellence, Canada (2012); Cultural Capital of Canada Artist status award in combination with Cultural Olympiad project status for the Winter Olympics (2008-10); the Innovation Award, The Lighthouse Gallery Glasgow (2006); and the Urban Culture Award (through the Millennium Commission, Cities of Culture Liverpool) for 2005-07. She received considerable media attention following an exhibition of artworks in 2013 that explored the intersections of farming and art to create cultural productions.

Farm Tableaux 2013-2015: 
Medomist Farm Ltd, Surrey, BC, Canada Clover Valley Organic Farm, Surrey, BC, Canada Finley's Rhododendrons, Surrey, BC, Canada Zaklan Heritage Farm, Surrey, BC, Canada Rondriso Farm, Surrey, BC, Canada

Portraits in the series This one's for the Farmer can be viewed through links below: