Phyllis Schwartz is a multi-disciplinary artist and curator who works in photography, ceramics, and publishing. She is an Emily Carr University of Art + Design graduate with a concentration in photography and the recipient of the Canon Photography Award. Her photography has been installed, exhibited and published locally, across Canada and internationally; her works are in corporate, public and private collections. These collections include the Farmboy Collection at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia and St. Paul’s Hospital Art Collection. Recent exhibitions include Collaborative Alchemy (with Pierre Leichner and Edward Peck, Amelia Douglas Gallery, NewWestminster, BC), The Formulation of Time (with Edward Peck, Desiree Patterson and Sand Wan at Lipont Gallery, Richmond, BC), Light Sensitive: celebrating prints from the darkroom (Art Intersections, Gilbert, Arizona), Illuminations and Impressions (die Bedürfnisanstalt, Hamburg Germany), and Cascadia (Surrey Art Gallery, Honourable Mention). Schwartz is a contemporary artist making images using the lumen print process. These unique hybrid prints are made by a contact-printing process that leaves traces and shadows on photosensitive surfaces that are digitized. Plant enzymes and atmospheric conditions also interact with the surface to produce unexpected and result on photosensitive paper or sheet film, leaving X-ray like marks of both their shapes and interiors. These impressions of organic forms hover on the cusp of abstract imagery and poetry.



Phyllis Schwartz's Blog

  • Wed, 31 Mar 2021 06:56:25 +0000


    A sabbatical year: with an exhibition schedule erased by the Pandemic, I was afforded an opportunity to reframe my art practice. I’ve enjoyed the quietude of a year away from the frenzy of getting work to shows and keeping up with all the details along the way. All things considered, it’s been a restorative year, but I’ve missed what in-person events and people bring to my artist practice.

    Throughout the Pandemic, my work at YVR (Gate 40) has been showing to those few who are taking local flights in BC. Likewise, NorthVan Arts continued to be available for art rentals and online gallery theme exhibitions.

    Bloom 12 Transplanted, a Coast Collective group exhibition at ECAH (Esquimalt Community Arts Hub) Gallery, put work on the wall and invited in the public. It was apt to see art in Bloom after what seems like a long year of art hibernation .

    The Juan de Fuca Art Space currently displays work by Coast Collective members, where four of my lumen prints are on show through the end of May. The Pandemic advanced the capacity of the online and digital realm, but after a cyber year, I find myself craving hands-on art making, the materiality of an art exhibition and safe, masked in-person art conversations. It feels like a spring awakening: tentative, cautious, promising.

  • Thu, 28 Jan 2021 07:36:53 +0000


    Available online at blurb.

    Spent bouquets, living sculpture and and botanical photogenic drawings spark a visual alchemical gallery conversation. Edward Peck’s large format scan grams, Pierre Leichner’s wheat grass sculpture and Phyllis Schwartz’ lumen prints toured five Vancouver Lower Mainland galleries during 2019 and 2020. They are artists whose practices contemplate the full cycle of natural growth and transitions that are in an ever-changing state. They use plant- based materials to create works of art that speak to issues of permanence and impermanence. They are choreographers and arrangers who have manipulated natural materials into compositions that challenge the viewer to contemplate time, form, and the ephemeral. Now a selection of their work is bound in book form with a gallery essay and artist statements. This Sassamatt publication is available in the blurb bookstore.

    Natural Alchemy, the first group exhibition, opened in early 2019 at Cityscape Community ArtSpace in North Vancouver. Then in April, Schwartz and Peck presented their work at the Lipont Gallery in Richmond, in a group exhibition under the name Formulation of Time in conjunction with the Capture Photography Festival. In late summer, Collaborative Alchemy then opened at the Outlet Gallery in Port Coquitlam. During this exhibition, all three artists provided workshops and presentations on their process and techniques. In November, the exhibition opened at the Amelia Douglas Gallery in New Westminster; during this show, the artist held seminars for individuals studying Fine Art. Finally in January, all three artists exhibited Collaborative Alchemy Plant Based Visual Art at Place des Arts Gallery in Coquitlam, where workshops were also presented.

    Pierre Leichner, Edward Peck and Phyllis Schwartz are artists whose practice contemplates the full cycle of natural growth and transitions that are in an ever-changing state. They use plant-based materials to create works of art that reflect states of permanence and impermanence. They are choreographers and arrangers who have manipulated natural materials into compositions that challenge the viewer to contemplate form, time, and the ephemeral. Hybrid prints by Phyllis Schwartz are made by a contact printing process that leaves traces and shadows on photosensitive surfaces. Her lumen prints engage viewers on a primal level to look again and make their own meaning from ambiguity. Pierre Leichner uses plant roots and moulds in an exploration of our relationship with nature and the beauty of the life cycle. In his work, the roots of plants become sculptural forms. Edward Peck’s photography addresses the symbolism of flower arrangements and the transformation of meaning when they are discarded. He explores the beauty that extends beyond our utilitarian use of these obsolete floral arrangements.

  • Sat, 02 Jan 2021 07:40:29 +0000


    Consistently, I walk where I can contemplate the horizon. Consistently, I focus on a distant, theoretical line where Earth and Sky meet. Consistently the illusion of a dividing line is inconsistent, depending on atmospheric conditions. Juxtaposing these horizons amplifies the inconsistencies of colour, texture, and visibility. Considering the uncontrollable inconsistencies of a place where I encounter the furthest point my eye can see, my camera shows me what encounters me. Each encounter is an ironic challenge to compress spaciousness and infinity into two dimensions, transformed into a continuum.

    New Year’s Day calls for something new on my website, something auguring an auspicious year. Check out my new Horizon page. Setting my sights on the horizon. Like the horizon, this is a series with no end in sight.

  • Tue, 03 Nov 2020 07:42:53 +0000

    THE AFTERMATH — or how these photographs came to happen

    I am at Telegraph Cove to see what remains of yesterday’s fierce wind storm that roiled the ocean and chased me into a warm retreat. I walk to this cove beach as a ritual. I am drawn here as if pulled by an earth magnet. It is a spiritual, therapeutic and spectacular place. Here is where the first Hudson’s Bay dock was built in the 1850s, followed by the first telegraph line to the San Juans in 1861 and after that, an explosives factory in 1895. This 150 metre shoreline is layered with history, and beyond that, is something mystical about the geography and geology. Locals moor their boats in the bay; kayakers paddle in from the sea; children and dogs run across the beach — and all of this disturbs the serenity. I try to erase these distractions as I try to find a new photograph in my viewfinder. I am happiest when I am alone at this beach. There are always active clouds painting the sky, but much more fascinating are the colours that settle along that an imperceptible horizon line, which tints the distant water. I am here now because yesterday was unfinished: the wind was icy cold and the sun was so glaringly bright that I could see neither near nor far without prolonged transitions as my eyes adjusted to changing light. 

    Yesterday, I watched the churning ocean, breaking waves and clear sky as long I could, but conditions were inhospitable. Today, I expected a calmer version of yesterday. Instead of high tidal waves charging the shore, I am first greeted with a smell of aging seaweed not common at this cove. The closer I walk to where the ramp gives way to a rocky beach, the more a green, seaweed carpet reveal itself. Next I see massive heaps of tangled bull kelp the likes of which I have never seen. I frequently scavenge beaches for seaweed to make Lumen Prints. I have seen one or two such tangles deposited on beaches at Tofino, but this is a massive sea harvest. Ironically, there is a serious sign riveted to one of the parking blocks forbidding the removal of rocks, sand, plants and seaweed from the beach. No camera-less photography for me today. 

    For a few minutes, I stand still on a solitary, surreal landscape. I have come to photograph churning water and frothy waves crashing the beach. Not only are white-caps and agitated waves hitting the shore, but also there is the aftermath of a plundered kelp forest strewn across the foreshore: an unanticipated photograph to process. The churning sea brought ashore holdfasts larger than dinner plates, ochre coloured bull kelp stipes more than two metres in length, and crimson tinged blades torn asunder. This reconfigured kelp forest is a story composed in Asemic script for me to decipher. Randomly placed sea-tangle sculptural forms rise from this beach-scape. Between these forms are logs carpeted with green matter that had been repurposed. A sense of arctic air penetrates my windbreaker. I am not long for this visit despite the bright sun attempting warm a calmer day. I cannot leave without documentation. And so my camera lifts to my eye, and I survey what is at my feet and then pan the green carpeted shore until I find an entrance. I start where I always start: in search of lines and massing, defocussing so I can compose within the frame of the camera, isolating out what distracts from the element that is the part of the whole but stands on its own. I am not thinking in words now; I am drifting, teetering, prowling and dancing between forms of unearthed kelp forest deposits. Focussing on the holdfast attached to a stipe I follow its curve as it snakes its way to the ball float with a few limp blades draped on small rocks. I am reading the writing as I move to find abstract forms, hoping to decipher what was written as an epilogue to a wild ocean event. I am reading the writing as I move to find abstract forms, hoping to later decipher what was written as an epilogue to a wild ocean event.

     The elements are closing in on my stamina, and I am not aware that I am no longer looking through my camera. In retreat, I imagine the hash tags I will include when I post this photograph on Instagram. Wordsworth’s daffodil poem comes to mind. This middle school poem celebrates spring in all its blossoming glory until the final stanza, which reveals the poet’s creative process. Wordsworth was an inveterate walker. He took his walking seriously: his walks were the source of his poetry, and he relied on his post-walk memories and meditations (“in vacant or in pensive mood”) to create the sensation that brought him words to craft. Wordsworth regarded his walks as the seeds of future poems. I am chilled to the bone and hastening to the warmth of home. More so, I am in a hurry to get to my desk where I can preserve what remains in my memory. My mind shifts again. I think about the word poet, which derives from the ancient Greek word poietes, meaning maker or inventor. Now it all comes together as I sit down to record the sensations, and as a maker using words, I craft images, editing out half-memories and discarding fragments because I cannot include everything, editing as I do in my viewfinder. Here it all comes  together for me, and in my own Instagramatic practice, I seek to accompany my image posts with a series of hashtags that if laid out on a page would read as a haiku.

    #fiercewind #roilingsea
    #autumnharvest #washedashore
    #greencarpeted #beach

    For oft, when on my couch I lie
    In vacant or in pensive mood,
    They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude;
    And then my heart with pleasure fills,
    And dances with the daffodils.

    I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
    William Wordsworth

  • Tue, 06 Oct 2020 06:41:49 +0000


    “light “ an exhibition juried by Richard McCabe, is showing at A Smith Gallery (02 October through 15 November) with a Facebook Live Reception on 31 October (4PM/CST). Active Pass Drama is included in this dynamic conversation of arresting photographic works.

    Saturday, October 31, at 4pmCST the A Smith Gallery will be doing a Facebook Live ArtWalk with the gallery directors. There are several ways to find the event on Facebook. Follow the A SmithGallery the gallery on Facebook, and a message will appear on your screen saying the live event has started. Or go directly to the gallery Facebook page at 4pm and watch. To see the exhibition…. click here. To visit the gallery on-line store for purchase information…. click here.

    Evening light has been a special interest of mine this summer. My eye is drawn to how light settles on the edge of Pacific Ocean horizon. At times, the horizon line is elusive, perhaps invisible, and without landmarks, it is nonexistent. Usually there is contrast between sea and sky: the sea is calm and the sky offers a momentary dramatic flare as the sun slips over the horizon.

    Long ago, someone began to call camera work photography: writing with light. Often I experience my photography in that medium, but Active Pass Drama and other works from this series are painterly. These dramatic, painterly moments are ephemeral as light eases beyond an undefinable edge of time.

    Gallery catalogue is forthcoming.

  • Sat, 05 Sep 2020 22:03:32 +0000


    North Van Arts is open to the public again, and so is North Van Art Rentals. They are one of the fortunate organizations that have survived Pandemic closures and so much social isolation. It is a personal blessing because in May and June, I watched my exhibition, workshop, and teaching events erase from my calendar. North Van Arts miraculously maintained an online Art Rentals Exhibition, and now they are open to the public again for purchase and rental with some protocols in place.

    The Art Rental Show is open to the public (sorry, no reception) during Cityscape Community ArtSpace gallery hours starting 11 September through 10 October. On display, Salon-style, are selections for the Art Rental Collection including three by Phyllis Schwartz and three by Edward Peck. This exhibition is an opportunity to dwell in an exhibition space created by proficient artist s — a conversation of natural and urban landscapes, abstracts, florals, and experimental compositions.

    Once again, North Van Art Rentals is open for business, and viewers can now rent or Buy More Art.

    • Deep Confusion (Edward Peck)
    • Longevity
    • Seeding the Wind (Edward Peck)

  • Fri, 21 Aug 2020 06:40:09 +0000

    You Can’t Make This Happen
    Finn Slough Landscape (Silver gelatin lumen print, unique photogram)

    Photograms, a Don’t Take Pictures exhibition includes Finn Slough Landscape, one of my photograms. This handmade camera-less process produces a one-of-a-kind unique image.

    Finn Slough Landscape was made between Christmas and New Years Day. The weather was overcast, threatening snow but delivered heavy slush. This lumen print photogram had been laid out on a glass table, covered with plexiglass, and left overnight with the expectation that slush would melt by morning. The following day delivered an unexpected freeze, and the work was left until the next day. The following day was colder, and company was coming for a few days. Not knowing what might happen, the work was floated off the ice with warm water and black-bagged for processing when guests had left. Three days later, organic material had grown slimy, etching the emulsion on silver-gelatin photo paper, adding additional marks to the photogenic marks.

    Unsure of what remained of my intended composition made from organic materials gathered at Finn Slough, I persisted. I have long believed that my artwork takes on a life of its own, but this is an extreme example of my art-making journeys. It is a reminder that I am at best a co-creator in the art-making process. Looking at Finn Slough Landscape now, I see a reminder of my interest in making art about what remains. In this case, it captures what remains at Finn Slough, a century-old diminishing fishing community and what remains after a photogram is left in freezing slush and black bagged for three days. In all probability, I could never repeat the conditions that created this unique photogram.

  • Sun, 02 Aug 2020 07:08:33 +0000

    FLORAL REVELATIONS — closing soon
    Midnight Gingko (pigment ink on cotton made from a handmade negative using a Lumen Print process)

    I miss art openings where I can mill among curious visitors and listen to their reactions to a new collection of work. I miss those opening night friends who delight in coming out to see fresh artwork and catching up on what other artists are doing. I miss this spontaneous community that renews my connections and inspires me to go home and make more artwork that I might show or talk about.

    During this unprecedented quiet time, North Van Arts has curated and presented virtual exhibitions with work in their collection of 400 original works. Floral Revelations includes two of my Lumen Prints: Tulip at Dusk and Midnight Gingko. Check out this exhibition that explores florals in a variety of mediums and renditions ranging from realism to impressionism. Like most flowers, they burst open, show their colours and disappear as quickly as they arrived. This exhibition is on until 03 August.

    Cityscape Art Rentals is now open with measures in place to keep staff and renters safe. This reopening brings back the opportunity for artwork to circulate. Three of my works are on view among 400 other works in the collection. With this reopening comes hope that more than artwork will soon circulate, and small gallery openings will be on our calendars again.

  • Tue, 04 Feb 2020 07:35:55 +0000

    Ginkgo: longevity and endurance
    Autumn Dance
    (Dye sublimation print on aluminum made from a handmade negative made from a handmade negative using a Lumen Print process)

    I am a hybrid photo-printmaker who fuses the organic and technological elements of the natural environment. Using plant materials, I choreograph a process that allows an image to take on a life of its own in the development process. My hybrid prints are photograms made by a contact printing process that leaves traces and shadows on photosensitive surfaces. Plant enzymes and atmospheric conditions also interact with the surface to produce unexpected alchemical results on the surface of the paper or sheet film, leaving X-rays like marks of both their shapes and interiors. My Lumen Prints engage viewers on a primal level to look again, to make their own meaning from ambiguity. These impressions of the plant life hover on the cusp of abstract imagery and poetry. 

    Ancient Memory, my current series, began with an interest in the ecology of Finn Slough, a tiny, century-old fishing community in South Richmond, along the South Arm of the Fraser River. Although not indigenous to the region, she found several ginkgo leaves among horsetails and river grass. This inspired research into prehistoric plants, a list that includes ferns, horsetails, moss, and ginkgo. These plants, specifically the ginkgo, symbolize not only the endurance of the Finn Slough community but also the concept of longevity in the contemporary environment of wasteful consumer culture and environmentally destructive planned obsolescence. The discovery of two ginkgo trees that survived the Hiroshima nuclear blast came to take on additional symbolic meaning and interest as it stands in contrast to a North American devaluation of Elders, architectural history and tradition. 

    Finn Slough: Ancient Memory (Unique lumen print photogram on fibre)

    The contrast of endurance and longevity in a culture that values the transitory beauty of youth is reflected in the imagery created by ginkgo leaves, horsetails and ferns when used in the lumen printmaking process. This form of cameraless photography records impressions that are affected by unpredictable and uncontrollable atmospheric conditions. In this transition from ambiguity to composition, my eye-brain searches for a recognizable form, usually a pair of eyes. Scientists explain this as pareidolia, the phenomenon of seeing a man in the moon, dragons in clouds and faces in tree bark. My Lumen Prints work in this space to render smaller ambiguous pareidolic artifacts that engage viewers on a primal level to look again, to make their own meaning from ambiguity. 

    In a larger sense, my work is a poet’s inquiry into the nature of permanence and impermanence. The Anthropocene epoch raises questions about what we are seeing, the need to continually look again at the human impact on the ecosystem and the nature of our own impermanence. In developing this series, the question, “What remains?” is always in the forefront of my thoughts. My Lumen Prints featured in Natural Alchemy — collaborative visual art document the intersection where natural materials meet, how they affect each other, and how they can challenge the viewer to contemplate time, form and the ephemeral. 

    (Dye sublimation print on aluminum made from a handmade negative made from a handmade negative using a Lumen Print process)
  • Thu, 16 Jan 2020 00:18:04 +0000

    Time to Fall in Love with Art

    Eleven Sassamatt Collective photographs are in the North Van Art Rentals collection, five by Phyllis Schwartz and six by Edward Peck.  The two most recent acquisitions and one classic will be on show in Art Rentals Show, a salon-style exhibition of 200 new works. The exhibition runs 16 January – 15 February (Cityscapes, 355 Lonsdale, North Vancouver). Work on show is available for rent or sale. This is an excellent opportunity to buy more art and think ahead to Valentine’s Day.
    Longevity, a recent work by Phyllis Schwartz, is a selection from a series of Lumen Prints made at Finn Slough. Deep Confusion and Mingus’ Summertime, new works by Edward Peck are selections from Arrangements, a series of images that capture flowers as they transition from bud to bloom to death.

    17 January-15 February
    NorthVan Arts
    Cityscape Community ArtSpace
    335 Lonsdale Ave, North Vancouver

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