David Hlynsky Biography and CV
CHILDHOOD. David Hlynsky was born in the US in 1947 and grew up in a small town east of Cleveland, Ohio. His father was a research chemist and his mother was deeply involved with arts and crafts. His parents pressed his education in both arts and science from an early age. All four of his grandparents immigrated from Eastern Europe and his Grandmother’s younger brother had immigrated to Toronto. David visited Toronto many times as a child.
EDUCATION David attended Ohio State University from 1965 to 1970, earning a BFA with a major in painting and print making. His senior painting professor was Charles Csuri, who sought, at the time, to employ a large mainframe computer in his own artistic production. He hired David as one of two student assistants to his research team and, together with the filmmaker, Chuck Nelson, and a few computer programmers, they made experimental computer-aided drawings, photos, prints and animated films. Csuri went on to become well known for his research. By the mid eighties, personal computers had made many of his techniques available to ordinary people. David Hlynsky’s experience with Csuri was a critical introduction to the possible integration of art making with cutting edge technology. Through the contributions of many other researchers like Csuri, digital imaging has rapidly evolved into the essential technology it is today.
David also studied under a print maker and political satirist, Sid Chafetz. Chafetz encouraged experimental print making which focused on the political issues of the day. Both of these teachers, still have considerable presence on the Internet. David became part of an off campus “Free University” and soon joined a collective of writers and artists who managed a silk screen printing facility, private film processing lab and darkroom. They made political posters with campus activists and earned money through offering promotional services to local musicians and theatre companies. David designed and ran rock and roll light shows and produced visual stage effects for the OSU dance community. During this time he was also a published poet and won the University’s Vanderwater Poetry Prize. But disillusionment with the politics of the Vietnam War and the cultural isolation of the American Midwest soon urged Hlynsky northward into Pierre Trudeau’s, more enlightened Canada .
PROFESSIONAL LIFE. David’s real professional career began in late 1970 when he moved to Toronto to take a job at the Coach House Press. There he worked as a designer, darkroom technician, layout artist, typesetter and editor. His fellow workers included Canadian writers such as Michael Ondaatje and bp Nichol. David illustrated many projects for visiting writers and artists and participated in the full range of book production. During this time he also became associated with A Space Gallery. He had numerous shows there, photographed early performance art events and contributed to A Space publications. He also served on the A Space Board of Directors.
One of his first illustration projects in 1972, was with General Idea in producing the first cover illustration for the very first issue of FILE magazine. FILE soon became an important networking vehicle for General Idea and their community of artists. David contributed to other issues of FILE and began editing and publishing his own photography periodical entitled, image nation. He produced image nation from 1973 to 1983.
Around 1974, David Hlynsky and fellow Coach House Press pressman, Michael Sowdon, were introduced to an exhibition of holographic images. Through the help of a Toronto art patron, they flew to San Francisco to learn the holographic craft. Upon returning to Toronto they established Fringe Research Holographics as the first holographic arts collective in Canada. Fringe Research also became part of a team that built the New York Museum of Holography in SoHo. David and Michael continued to make paintings, holograms and photographs and exhibited these across Canada and internationally. Their presentation frequently included a neoDada, pseudo sciences, snake oil show. They each took on various stage personae and presented holographic images along with traditional stage magic shows, spasm music and performance art. Fringe Research occasionally staged public “rat races” with white lab rats. Hlynsky acted as the master of ceremonies dressed in a white-fringed lab coat. He attempted to hypnotize his audience while showing them pictures from supermarket tabloids. After the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, he began to make live paintings on stage while dressed in a cumbersome radiation suit.
But in their studio, Fringe Research had also assembled high powered lasers and a large professional-grade optical bench. This was essentially a finely tooled steel table (the size of a snooker table) which floated on a cushion of air. Expensive lenses and mirrors were mounted to it magnetically. This was a very delicate, precision, holographic camera system that had to be rebuilt before each shot. Darkroom processes required experimental chemistry and their research often brought them into direct contact with the international scientific community. They also collaborated with Canadian and international artists to investigate the possibilities of holographic imaging.
Because, David was still associated with Coach House Press and obsessively interested in photography, he sought the opportunity to publish a second volume of his own work entitled, salvage. (Coach House had published his first book of photographs, baggage, in 1973.) Salvage, was really a novella written by him and profusely illustrated by his own images. Upon publication, Hlynsky was approached by a CBC film producer and a young filmmaker and was offered to turn salvage into a full length, feature film. For the next four years the project was in development with David writing many drafts of the screenplay, but a recession in the Canadian film economy caused them to abandon project.
David continued to publish image nation throughout this time. But image nation was a broader investigation of the many dialects of photography and Hlynsky collaborated with artists such as Paul Wong and Eldon Garnet to produce monographs of their projects. As a spin off of magazine production, David and his companion, Susan King also began to publish and produce artist’s postcards. This was prior to the Internet and marked a time during which General Idea was promoting international “mail art” as a way to increase cultural networking. David and Susan distributed artists’ cards internationally and through a specialty shop in Toronto’s Kensington Market called XOX. XOX sold all sorts of artist’s ephemera and printed matter. David and Susan bought a house in 1982 and had a child in 1985.
During this period, (1980-84), David became involved with the Toronto Photographer’s Workshop and, as President of the Board, assisted the co-operative in opening a permanent gallery at 80 Spadina Ave. Gallery TPW is now more than twenty years old and is a vital part of the Canadian photography community. Gallery TPW also managed a photo gallery in the hallway at Harbourfront and Hlynsky served on the selection committee or board of directors from the mid 1980’s until 2004
As a photographer in Toronto’s art scene, David made many portraits of young artists throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Some of these were shown at the Rivoli on Queen Street in 1985. A young Polish curator, Mary Pikula, saw these and invited David to participate in a group exhibition in Krakow Poland in 1986. Still under the Soviet yoke, Poland became a very interesting destination. It tweaked his interest in his own ancestral roots but more importantly, a trip to the Communist Bloc was an opportunity to examine the social aspects of the Cold War first hand. Raised in the American Midwest, the child, David, had been indoctrinated with the conservative zeal of the 1950’s. The VietNam War and anti-war protests hit the Ohio State University campus very hard and David witnessed many occasions of police repression and outright violence which ultimately included the campus being placed under martial law. These experiences had left a profound impression on him and led directly to his acceptance of a job at the Coach House Press in Canada. His show at the Rivoli fifteen years later, opened an opportunity to visit and document life in the Soviet sphere personally.
Travel to Poland was a life altering experience. The economic and cultural differences were quite marked but David also discovered a very interesting parallel community of artists. Dissident artists there created fascinating works of subtle irony. He became obsessed in discovering more of the East Bloc and scheduled yearly trips to countries under Soviet rule. By the time the Soviet Empire collapsed in 1989, David had visited Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary many times and had also traveled through Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and spent a short time in East Berlin. Another trip took him to Havana. After the collapse of the Iron Curtain in Central Europe, Hlynsky made a trip to Moscow while it was still a Socialist state. Throughout all of this, Hlynsky made more than 8,000 medium format colour negatives and began to exhibit this work in Canada, Europe, Mexico and Poland.
All of this travel and new responsibility for his young son, JP, caused Hlynsky to move away from publishing ventures, holography and performance art. He had been teaching at Three Schools but now sought something more professional. He began teaching at OCAD in the photography and computer arts programs. To earn extra cash, he became the official photographer and digital graphic designer for the children’s television series, Dudley the Dragon. Through this work he honed his Photoshop skills.
He also continued to collaborate with Toronto dancers, performance artists and theatre companies in producing photographic images for integration into live theatrical performances. He collaborated with Jim Gerard of Theatre Passé Muraille, writer/director Maristella Rocca, Deanne Taylor of Video Cabaret, and performance artists, Randy and Berenicci, Vera Frankel, Tanya Mars and Elizabeth Chitty. Some of these collaborations involved hundreds of images projected onto into optically active stage elements designed by Hlynsky. These included multiple layered scrims, reflecting pools and wind blown sails. Other theatrical projections were intentionally banal presentations using practical slide projectors and portable projection screens. Jim Gerard’s production of Peggy’s Song was such a production in which a detective used Hlynsky’s slides to discover the personality and habits of a character who had been killed before the play begins. Hlynsky’s images contributed mood as well as essential story and plot elements to all of these theatrical collaborations. His photographs were frequently also used in poster design. Some of these productions went on tour. More recently David Hlynsky, designed and produced a multi projector, multi image history of the Mamas and Papas for Canadian playwright, Paul Ledoux’s, exposé, Dream a Little Dream. The production had two runs in Toronto and Halifax and a final production season In New York’s Greenwich Village in 2003.
In the early 1990’s, as his Communist European project seemed to find closure in the events of the day, David began another photo project called Wilderness Camp. This began as a series of 4x8 foot photographic murals commissioned as public art for Toronto’s new Metro Hall. Hlynsky’s theme was the relationship between culture and nature and he made his new images in the forests of cottage country. He constructed hundreds of still life and tableaux pictures in an attempt to produce restful but gently ironic investigations of the languages humans use to describe Nature. These were based on science, myth and romanticism. His working practice evolved into something akin to 19th century landscape painting. Hlynsky brought photo equipment, lights, processing chemicals, costumes, models and props into the forest and then spent long days evolving his images. He used Polaroid materials which gave him both prints and negatives without using a darkroom. Through many incarnations and many exhibitions, this work continued to quietly evolve. It has been shown in South Africa, Europe, the US and across Canada. This work was featured in many European and American publications. As of this writing in October 2004, it is currently on exhibit at the Walter Gropius Bau in Berlin after an early summer engagement in Prague. A complete current set of prints has been donated to the U of T Art Gallery.
During the mid 1990’s David Hlynsky began to live with and collaborate with Shirley Yanover. Together they produced six permanent public sculptures in Toronto’s Chinatown and Kensington Market. These were made of resin, fabricated steel, cast aluminum and bronze. Hlynsky and Yanover were both long time members of Toronto’s Cold City Gallery and participated in many solo and group exhibitions.
Hlynsky also produced a large, permanent photo mural for the Whitby Mental Health Facility in 1996 and in 2003, produced a summer-long outdoor installation work in the park outside the Stratford Festival Theatre.
David Hlynsky has been in countless exhibitions and publications. He has given many workshops and lectures internationally. His work and history may be reviewed through many Internet sites (best searched through Google). He has designed his own web sites and CD Roms. He has taught photo theory and technique at Ryerson Polytechnical University and once supervised a month long Ryerson workshop in Paris. Since 1995 he has taught computer imaging and photographic design at Sheridan College and in 2005 he accepted a full time position in the Studio, New Media and Graduate Studies programs at the University of Toronto. His work is in many public and private collections.
He has been nominated for a Canadian national magazine Award. He has received three A level Canada Council Grants, numerous A level Ontario Arts Council Grants and many others at intermediate levels from both agencies. He has acted as a frequent advisor to both arts councils and continues to sit on a City of Toronto steering committee for policy on art in public places.
His historical images of Communist Europe have been given new life through a major exhibition in the heart of Prague, Vaclava Spaly Gallery, September 1, 2005. This exhibition traveled to Berlin's L.O.F.T. in 2006 and remains available for other venues. Hlynsky hopes that the exhibition will also travel to other former East Bloc countries and eventually find a home in archives there and in North America.
In 2004, Hlynsky began a new body of work entitled New Xanadu which portrays the imaginary culture of corporate big business. In 2005, he also mounted a significant exhibition curated by Martha Langford at Art Mur in Montreal. This exhibition called, Rosebud, contrasted the Wilderness Camp project with New Xanadu.
Documentation of most of the works or events mentioned in this biography can be acquired by contacting the artist.
City of Toronto Archive (recent acquisition 35 portrait prints of Canadian artists.)
SELECTED GRANTS AND AWARDS
2003 Canada Council “A” Grant
1998 Two Sculptures for Kensington market (with Shirley Yanover)
SELECTED EXHIBITIONS (since 1990)
2006 L.O.F.T. Berlin. solo exhibition.
2005 Image and Imagination Edited by Martha Langford (review and photos)
Numerous additional works and references