The adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” may apply to Illumination, a multi-disciplined art project combining crystal sculpture and portrait photography by renowned artist Mark Raynes Roberts that is inspired by the works of Canadian authors.

Taking more than two years to complete the sculptor-photographer spanned 20,000 kilometres and 22,500 photographs, which resulted in 150 black-and-white author photographs and a 12-piece crystal collection.

For the sculptural component, Raynes Roberts read passages about light penned by 12 Canadian writers including Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen and Alice Munro. The photographs required a more intimate touch and familiarity with the subjects, particularly as many writers are known to be shy or even reclusive.

“What’s so important is the way you communicate with the subject to make them comfortable,” says Raynes Roberts.

“Being an artist myself, to put them at ease we could talk about the creative process, about beauty, what’s wrong in the arts, etc. And over time, the author could relax and be themselves as I clicked away.”

Initially trained as a goldsmith in his native England, Raynes Roberts fell in love with hand engraving and became a successful entrepreneurial artist, creating such pieces as the Hilary Weston Writer’s Trust Award for Non-Fiction.

His work resides in many corporate and private collections and has been presented to such luminaries as Nelson Mandela.

Portraits of Canadian Literature (crystal exhibition): Gardiner Museum, Toronto, Oct. 26-Nov. 11. Portraits of Canadian Authors (photography exhibition): Toronto Reference Library, Oct. 11-Nov. 1, and the International Festival of Authors, Oct. 22-Nov. 1.

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