Frances Patella  |  Gallery

“It is the visual change in the state of things which will reveal their essential reality”.

Roy Ascott



My mixed media work investigates time, transience and transformation.

The work incorporates a temporal aspect to the representation of the landscape with photographic mosaics of the rare Oak Savannahs of Toronto under controlled burn events. I’m interested in the multiplicity of images that can be experienced in one place. The photographs are taken over time, often spanning a decade. The tessellated images show change in the environment, referencing Marshall McLuhan’s term, “all-at-once-ness”.


The urban nature of the Golden Horseshoe has squeezed these rare landscapes into specially designated areas, including High Park in Toronto. Prescribed burns encourage these endangered ecosystems.  Fire is integral as it stimulates the germination of savannah species and controls invasive ones. According to thermodynamics, the dissipation of heat insures change in a property, and in this case the landscape, converting heat energy into rejuvenation. The fire’s heat is absorbed by the ground and acts as a catalyst to the germination of oak acorns. The fire quickens the decomposition of the savannah scruff, adding nutrients to the soil. During this annual event, the savannahs are transformed into ephemeral places by fire and smoke. I have photographed these landscapes which transition through states of destruction and recreation, capturing serial and incremental changes.


I reconstruct the motion of walking through the burning landscape, the racing fire across the savannah grasses, and the resulting billowing smoke. Each individual photo has its own identity, and its integration into the larger scene illustrates the movement through space and time. My work establishes a visual timeline, uniting past states of an environment, linking and interweaving multiple temporalities and perspectives. I may also include double exposures for a multi-temporal view. I save rolls of film shot during one burn to reshoot at a later date under different conditions and perspectives. These layered images upend the conventional idea that a photograph represents just one instance and one point of view.


Throughout history, people have cleared and prepared the land for farming with fire. During my childhood in Italy, controlled fires sparked my interest. I am drawn to the combinations of different elements. I combine paint with photography to produce a synthesis between these different media.