"[I find] self portraiture and portraiture within First Nations communities [a] really interesting and fascinating topic. I think as a culture, First Nations people have been really controlled by the land in a lot of ways but not in our hands...outside of our hands through Hollywood movies or you name it."
Arthur Renwick is a photo-based artist, independent curator and professor. His practice explores cultural identity and colonization.
Renwick is a member of the Haisla First Nation; he was born and raised in Kitimat British Columbia. He took his first art class in grade ten. His talent for drawing was immediately noticed and encouraged by his teachers. He would go on to complete post secondary schooling at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver. The transition to life in the big city was a challenge for Renwick. He credits the support he received from his community, family and friends for getting him through. He received his Master of Fine Arts in Photography at Concordia University in Montreal in 1993. After which he began to work in the museum field first, at Power Plant in Toronto then at the Canadian Museums of Civilization in Hull, Quebec.
His early work explored the impact of industry on the landscape and society. It was most likely influenced by the presence of Alcan's aluminum smelter in his hometown of Kitimat. With the Mask Series he turned to portraiture, Jani . The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography's Associate Curator Andrea Kunard describes the Mask Series in 2008 "In order to confront this heritage of discrimination, Renwick asked his subjects to imagine looking through the lens directly at the stereotypes, and make a gesture towards them. The result is a full-face highly animated portrait. The works are larger than life and highly detailed. They are also confrontational and when presented in a group, make a powerful statement on the part of the people depicted. The artist wanted the final image to be unsettling, confrontational, disturbing and mocking. He also wanted viewers to feel small or diminished when they encountered the work."
Renwick was awarded the K.M. Hunter Artists Award in 2005.