Chamber of Reflection

Chamber of Reflection

MB-NGC 3372_flat

Night Sky NGS 3372 from the series “Night Skies”, 2013,
cocaine dust on photographer’s velvet, 132 x 306 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

Photography and image-making by extension, have become part of the everyday rituals of contemporary western societies. The proliferation of images has become a synonym of acknowledgment, a symptom of our obsession for appearances and the praise of individualism. Susan Sontag’s call for an “ecology of the image” has been exceeded by social media and the “cult of personality”. To neutralize this visual superabundance, young photographers must innovate by giving new shapes to the imaged and by stimulating the ocular organ, they have to some extent, be able to alleviate the viewer’s gaze. Matthew Brandt’s strategy is to dig into photography’s past to present old-fashioned techniques of reproduction revitalizing them and offering a renewal in contemporary aesthetics.

At first glance, his are captivating photographs of vast landscapes reminding us of the tradition of the first American photographers who revealed to wider audiences the hidden treasures of the American West; photographers such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Timothy O’Sullivan are among those who inspired Brandt’s body of work. His photographs from the series Water Bodies, especially Two Ships Passing U.S and Pacific Ocean bear witness to his penchant for ancient techniques. In a recent conversation held with the artist, he attributed the implementation of these procedures to what they enable him to do when creating an image: other than the playful asset, uncertainty plays a tremendous role. Brandt finds the mystery lying behind each take fascinating, ostensibly analog images magnify the desire to discover the image.

The brisk cascade of images in social media copes with the tandem of our contemporary world, the artist’s technique requires certain equipment and time of exposure and certain material that corresponds to the methodology used during the 19th century. The resulting images are far from the plethora of data in mass media. His artistic takes possess a particular texture and linear composition bestowing them softness and harmony. While Brandt relinquishes old fashioned techniques, he associates photography with chemistry rather than with a simple reflex. Photos are for him invitations to the past where each take is carefully thought about and constructed.

While Brandt relinquishes old fashioned techniques, he associates photography with chemistry rather than with a simple reflex.

Art and its techniques are an unparalleled footprint of a society’s way of thinking and seeing. Impressionism is an example of the evolution undergone by the human eye, without photography’s arrival, painting might have never been liberated from the mimetic burden. Clippings – a series created during 2014 and 2015 – uses the pointillism technique making a parallelism between photography and painting. These artistic avant-gardes explored human perception terminating with the Western tradition of perfect sight, they focused on blurry configurations. Clippings is an investigation of how an image is made and for the artist the latter relates more to a moveable oscillation of components than to a static structure. His unorthodox methods of representation – among them we can cite the use of kitchen ingredients in his series Taste Test in Color, honeybees, dust and recently cocaine for Night Skies – encourage spectators to be inventive and to understand that there is more to his photos that meets the eye.
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Lewis Lake WY3 from the series “Lakes & Reservoirs”, 2013,
C-print soaked in Lewis Lake water. Courtesy of the artist

 

One wonders then, what is the requisite to making photography or to creating an image? New technologies have widened its definition, but Brandt does not choose technology. Instead, he introduces elements from what he portrays, conferring to each photograph a special “aura”. This concept was firstly evoked by Walter Benjamin in his essay The Work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, in it the German philosopher underlined the inherent dangers of “new” techniques. Benjamin feared art’s trivalisation as well as the audience’s loss of interest for the original. Yet, Brandt’s work disputes the philosopher’s claims by creating unique photographic pieces. His series Portraits is made with body fluids provided by the people photographed, to some extent each take contains its special DNA, one that can’t be reproduced infinitely. Lakes and Reservoirs operates with the same logic as he developed the photographs with the water collected from the lakes. The approach is further developed with Bridges over Flint, as it takes a political nuance. In the wake of the American elections, the photographs appear as indicators of the genesis of a critical moment in history.

Boundless connections derive from each of his artistic projects, Wai’anae for instance is an investigation on how Hawaiians relate to their land. Brandt took photos of Wai’anae’s nature, he later developed them, folded them in banana leaves and buried them on the ground. Moisture, rain and the soil transformed the photographs into quasi abstract printings, the experience was correlated to a Hawaiian burial ritual in which the body is folded and becomes part of nature again. Photography’s connectedness to death emerges as we remember Barthes statement “that had been”, image making reveals itself as a morose testament, a modern memento mori. Memory is indeed a fascinating feature in photography making, a part from taking part in modern ritualistic activities, it testifies to our presence in exotic places. In relation to tourism photography, Brandt created a whimsical character, the epitome of bad taste and questionable behaviour representing mass tourism. With a fist in the air, a Hawaiian shirt and a hat, Hands up embodies mass tourism and photography’s role in modern holidays. It was again Sontag in her essay On photography, that described photography’s place during the holiday season and how picture taking eased German and American workers giving them the feeling of doing something with their idle time.

 

MB-Two Ships Passing_Pacific Ocean_U.S_300dpi

Two Ships Passing, US from the series “Water Bodies”, 2011,
salted paper print, 107 x 133 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

Matthew Brandt’s photographs are historical journeys retracing the steps of photography and its evolution over the years. One of his latest exhibitions showcased at the Museum of Modern art in New York, was a video performance with the musician Julianna Barwick where Brandt was in charge of the video-making. This is a major factor asserting that Brandt doesn’t limit himself to photography’s stillness, movement is gaining in importance in his artistic practice. It is of little importance if Brandt’s interests broaden, what remains in his photographs and videos is his ardent curiosity for image and its by-products, a lucid testimony of what image has become.

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CDB-familiere-etrangete

Familière Étrangeté, 2013 – ongoing, Pigment print on Japanese paper, 60x90 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

The ubiquity of images perpetuated by social networking inevitably reduces the value of photography. The fundamental nature of the expression describes its infinitely reproducible triteness. On a scale from light to darkness, photography, as if transparent, reveals not the description of the event, but the consciousness of the photographer’s feelings. Clémence Danon Boileau’s photographs bear witness to the set of choices she exercised in her everyday life. Her sombre use of colour and lighting speaks of a silent tragedy affecting every single one of us.

If we talk about the language of paintings and that of sculptures, we think of the composition, the interaction between the form and the space, and so forth. What then is the language of photography? Many look at it as the closest resemblance to reality, that it is essentially the language of events recorded, external to the photograph itself. How are we, the spectators, supposed to read a photograph, to access knowledge that goes beyond what is printed in front of us? Indeed, the arbitrariness of photography gives us only a glimpse of the operator’s reality through the shadow by the mediation of light. A Roland Barthes’ punctum, if you may. Thinking of the silhouettes in Clémence Danon Boileau’s Ni là, ni ailleurs series, a lot can be said in the silence of the night.

Her unceasing study of materials chases back to her initial motive in photography: as a way of remembering.

In a town southeast of Paris, Danon Boileau wanders about the familiar scenery of Fontainebleau. Through the viewfinder of her camera, she sees the forest and dirt roads not unlike those in Jitka Hanzlová’s photographs. The autumn leaves and dry bushes on the one side, and the bare branches of the towering trees on the other, evoke the presence of a sense of timelessness. It’s as if the wind was taken out of the equation in a vacuum of time, like a snap shot from a page in Wuthering Heights. Familière Etrangeté presents the uncanny – a paradox of intangibility and desire. Consider Danon Boileau’s photographs to be taken in the suspension of time, we retract the fourth dimension of our reality. Photographs are in their nature two-dimensional explaining Danon’s fervent research in giving substance to her work. Printed on a delicate Japanese paper, Danon Boileau gives her images physicality. The three-dimensional granulation of the paper renders a pointillist effect, drawing the spectator right in to the centre of the question: “What exactly am I seeing?” Her persistence in finding the right type of paper specifically for her different series grants her work a rarity value and transforms her personal observation into the spectator’s self-consciousness.

 

CDB-Familiere-etrangete-4

Familière Étrangeté, 2013 – ongoing, Pigment print on Japanese paper, 60x90 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

Completely self-taught, Danon Boileau picked up photography to construct her memory castle. The confidence in guaranteeing, through language, the things she sees in her daily life, is shattered in the mystery of photography. The familiarity of witnessing the modern phenomenon of smart phones, a portrait, a landscape in photographs illustrates the “striking instance of uncanniness” in Freud’s description. The strange faces, captured in Danon Boileau’s Dans le parking series during one of her many travels as a legal adviser to an NGO, are examples of her photographic sensitivity in revealing the modesty, innocence and purity of the ordinary. Achieving the technique of “Rembrandt lighting” without the constraints of a walled studio, Danon Boileau makes use of the raw light accessible in her surroundings. The features of her subjects are carved out resembling a Baroque painting. Yet, the spectator is more likely to be drawn to the intriguing details hidden in the shadows. The intensity in the everyman’s gaze is sharpened when the spectator is made aware of the soft, almost forlorn silhouette of which the explanation is absent in the photograph.

The spectrum of absence and presence holds the quantum of truth as to the photographer’s emotions as the shutter clicks. It’s not just black and white, but a testimony to an existence.  The many distractions in our circle of modern comfort complicate the sincerity of the artist. The construction of this reality in photography is dependent on the spectator’s recognition of these untold details. The great negative space in the image of a lady’s profile illuminated by the light of her telephone screen unveils the irony of globalised interconnectedness. The title of Ni là, ni ailleurs is evocative of the estrangement prevalent in our advanced society. This communication device brings us virtually closer to those who are far away but takes us further away from human contact. By removing this dependency, what is left is a morbid imagery reflected from the paleness of the lady’s skin. Danon Boileau’s subjects are neither here nor there.

 

CDB-Nilaniailleurs-4

Ni là, ni ailleurs, 2014, C-print, 50x70 cm. Courtesy of the artist

 

It is this automatism in photography and in our age that has conceived the dualities of such paradox and its contradictions and we cannot possibly perceive its extent. The socio-cultural reading into a photograph may somehow overwrite the photographer’s intentions and give the referent an overwhelming authority. In Danon Boileau’s Essai sur la fécondation in vitro, her photographs are freed of the necessity of a denotation. “Strip of one’s flesh, the essence of being takes shape.” The ambiguity of the subject matter is impregnated by the darkness of backlight. Her unceasing study of materials chases back to her initial motive in photography: as a way of remembering. These photographs are experimental and high in contrast. Danon Boileau’s reality unfolds in front of the spectator’s eyes into an empathetic, beautiful mess of cognitive reconnection and fabricated memories.

 

CDB-Familiere etrangete-route copy

Familière Étrangeté, 2013 – ongoing, Pigment print on Japanese paper, 60x90 cm. Courtesy of the artist
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Marcus Lyon : An idea leader

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As a member of different humanitarian organizations, his artistic practice is marked by his social awareness and a visual sensitivity. As a young child Lyon  became aware of the limitations of human life after the loss of his older brother, Andrew; the discovery of the camera at 12 allowed him to control time, to take back his life. From an early life, Lyon understood human fragility making him sensitive to human needs and the human condition. As a result, he strongly believes the artist’s role is to communicate the biggest issues of today and for Lyon the political is very important. Issues such as globalization, mass behaviour or leisure are at the core of his artistic practice.

 

Intersection, Limited edition Digital C-type print
Edition of 7 – © Courtesy of the artist

With a series of photographs taken in Brazil, Russia, India and China, Lyon portrays endless buildings flooding city horizons in BRICS. Through these photographs globalization is defined as a phenomenon uniforming urban space. How could we know which image belongs to which country? It is difficult to differentiate, if not impossible, similarity being almost a requirement in modern architecture. Nevertheless, there is an aesthetic asset in uniformity making it symmetrical and balanced, thus agreeable to look at. In Intersection, the roughness of the road’s combined with the colours grey and white, symbolizes the empowerment resulting from shaping nature. No green or blue is visible, nor any forms of nature; Lyon’s lines and arabesques depict a natureless world where human sovereignty is affirmed by architecture once again. However, the human figure is always absent: in a world threatened by ecological disasters, the sole human remains will be these buildings.

Lyon always affirmed his ideas lead. He believes very strongly in having a process guided by what he calls pre-visualisation which consists of seeing an image in your mind’s eye before deciding what equipment to place, or what to photograph.

Rambert III, Strange charm of Mother Nature – © Courtesy of the artist

Furthermore, Lyon’s latest project Somos Brasil explores identity in a country known for its rich and diverse ethnicity. Through the triptych of biological information, vision and sound, Lyon intends to give a voice to the two dimensional image.  In his practice, it is not uncommon for him to add multiple layers to photography, for he strongly believes that the camera is the most accurate device allowing him to give shape to his ideas. Lyon always affirmed his ideas lead. He believes very strongly in having a process guided by what he calls pre-visualisation which consists of seeing an image in your mind’s eye before deciding what equipment to place, or what to photograph. Built over 4 years his latest portrait project, Somos Brasil, uses the process of pre-visualisation to explore Brazilian identity through the visual, spoken and genetic information of 100 exceptional Brazilian’s as it emerges as a globally significant economy.  

 

Stadia III – Limited edition Digital C-type print, 149,4 x 122 cm
Edition of 7 + 3 AP – © Courtesy of the artist

According to Lyon, reinvention is the pre condition of remaining a “living” artist. On the one hand, the series Tidelines or Rambert explores concepts such as the passage of time and physical movement in dance and on the other hand, Dreamland, is an incredibly “soft” project showing people asleep in different positions and places. It revisits the human condition exploring sleep, a universal and human need: “Sleep is such an intimate space and there is something quite humorous about it.”

Lyon’s work offers the spectator an intricate and rich panorama of perspectives.  He doesn’t preach or expect anything from his audience as he deeply respects people’s visual literacy. He respects the things they see, the things they feel, the questions they ask, especially children, who are amazing at reading images according to the photographer. Moreover, photography subordinates the spectators to new forms of understanding and Marcus Lyon’s work is as objective as possible allowing people to build their own judgment. His artistic practice has always integrated his Political Science degree, hence the respect he feels towards human kind.

Brigitte Waldach, Thus Spoke the Silenced

Brigitte Waldach, Thus Spoke the Silenced

 

Brigitte Waldach Violence
Violence, 2013, installation with rubber bands,
wall drawing, 6 channel sound, Museum Marta, Herford –

 

“Thought was secondary to speech,” argued the 20th century seminal political theorist, Hannah Arendt in her 1958 work The Human Condition. If one chooses to subscribe to that school of thought, then Brigitte Waldach’s predominant use of textual references in her multidimensional drawings and installations, will shed light on the Ciceronian oration flair in visual art. Literature, philosophy and political rhetoric are at the heart of the Berlin-based artist’s practice. The overlay of text organises the ominous ambiance that is emblematic of her unique collection of poignant and visually enticing works. Every line, strategically delineated with pigment pen, every curvature traced with graphite, draws a looking glass into contemporary issues without implying any political agenda to her art. Waldach’s meticulous and methodical technique is built on the need to generate a resonance with the viewer’s personal cultural experience.

At the centre of her most recent solo exhibition, entitled Untouched by Echoes, was History Now (2016) – a series of elaborate conceptual drawings. In the thick of the “text clouds”, as coined by the artist, Waldach’s heroes and heroines become magnetic fields that attract and repel information. Of course, this electric effect is only made possible by the ‘blank’ space of the artist’s handmade paper hung against the white walls. The bareness is not expressionless. Waldach filters the white noise and animates the invisible information into visible motifs. She works consciously up the schematic hierarchy from the gaze of the spectator through the metaphorical windows of the frames and glass into a figurative visualisation that opens up a universe of worldviews and precipitating thought.

Brigitte Waldach History Now

History Now – Jesus 2016,
graphite, pigment pen, gouache on handmade paper, 190 x 140 cm

 

The negative space and the receding perspective in Waldach’s two-dimensional drawings are the first realm of what the artist calls ‘hyperspace’. Hyperspace entails the liberation from the conventional functions of the medium in the viewing experience. It is also the emancipation of senses from worldly perception entrapped by the inherent human disposition. Having said that, the artist recognises that the human body is bound by the axiom of temporal and spatial consciousness orbiting around the notions of the past, present and future. Therefore, with an initial glance at the drawings, the viewer enters Waldach’s concept of infinity, which inevitably evokes a sense of vertigo and anxiety. This Odyssean diversion from the known and the conditioned is central to the constructional minimalism in Waldach’s composition.

 

Brigitte Waldach Rauschen

Rauschen (Noise) (triptych), 2013, graphite, gouache on handmade paper, 185 x 380 cm

 

In fact, the infinite expansion of Waldach’s hyperspace owes much to the spectator’s mental imprints and assumptions in correspondence with their intellectual and cultural capacity. In the spatial drawing Brainbox Ideology (2016), the tautness of the rubber bands shows the coevality and codependency of language and thought. Waldach’s conspicuous rhetoric of the hovering entanglement of the knot functions as a bearer of the cultural symbolic and symptomatic of the befuddlement of the modern-day ideology. The artist’s objective is to seize hold of the viewer’s attention so that they linger to ponder. Inspired by Beckett’s plays, Waldach looks at the condition of waiting as an existential activity. In the vita activa, there is an exquisite reverberation unique to the act of waiting that is simultaneously active and passive. Notwithstanding the artist’s choice and the decipherability of the text cited, the moment of suspension becomes a recognition of the art by an outsider.

Such analysis calls to mind her triptych Mother’s Day (9 May 1976) (2014) whose subject is Ulrike Meinhof, a prominent founding member of the West German far-left militant group, Red Army Faction. Meinhof is no doubt a suiting example of the complexity of mankind with our overlapping resume of societal roles. By portraying the moment of her death, all facets of this person are illuminated, the private and political realms merge into one. Yet, the viewer sees a serene face with closed eyes and they are reminded of the somber fact that the human prism shines brightest upon our last breath. This is the reason why Waldach does not put emphasis on the recognisability of her figures.

If the portrayal of the Camusian everyday man is the main narration in Waldach’s artistic expression, then why does the artist include popularised references? In her early repertoire, horror film tropes hold a significant presence. Her recent production has so far departed from the visceral, it seems that established truisms have replaced the blatant violence of the colour red and the “Hitchcockian” allegories. The version of reality presented is more haunting in the silence of Waldach’s manipulation of language and words. Her partiality to analogies, historical references and horror film motives, creates an open form. These figures are proxies, a derivative narrator who is a familiar and relatable predecessor to the visual space.

Brigitte Waldach’s art functions as a device, a pair of binoculars to visualise the convergence of time and space in the human collective consciousness. A study of the artist’s work and career refuses to not be pedagogical and didactic. Likewise, in her two-dimensional and spatial drawings, the understanding of her creative process merits an explosion of imageries and references as understandably, hers is an artistic exercise of humanity.

 

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The_Kid I Go Alone

I GO ALONE – BY THE KID – 2016 – OIL PAINT AND EGG TEMPERA ON CANVAS – 212 x 354 x 6 cm ©2016 THE KID ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – COURTESY GALERIE ALB

“…But the civilization of the spectacle is cruel, because the spectators have no memory.  Because of that, they also lack remorse and true conscience.”

This quote comes from the Mexican poet, Octavio Paz, during a conference and later on his compilation book Chiapas: hechos, dichos y gestos. However, the Mexican Nobel Prize Winner was mistaken and so is Mario Vargas Llosa who quoted him in his essay Civilization of the Spectacle, along with a handful of critics, for we do not suffer from amnesia but rather from hyperthymesia.

The_Kid’s work embodies Aby Warburg’s Mnémosyne Atlas, a project where the philosopher tries to find coherence in forms and gestures rather than in the work of art context. Hence, The Kid’s iconography navigates through time and elderly images of emotional power, such as the Laöcoon that then cohabits with modern symbols of youth. For instance, his sculpture Rise and rise again until lambs become lions, which works as a mnemonic trigger, as the spectator recognizes Michelangelo’s Pietà in the position of the boy’s body, hand gesture and his gaze. Blessed Is The Lamb Whose Blood Flows, is a sculpture where a modern ephebe is being carried out by an eagle and reminds us of the ancient myth of Icare. All this “ancient” iconography is relocated and transformed rendering his sculptures and drawings timeless pieces of art where all sorts of temporalities meet.

The Kid - Dylan, Bic Drawing on paper

DYLAN – BY THE_KID – 2013 – BIC DRAWING ON PAPER – 265 x 195 x 6 CM
PRIVATE COLLECTION ©2013 THE_KID ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – COURTESY ALB GALLERY

Moreover, the despair in the teenagers’ faces reveals something deeply rooted in this generation. Again, in his sculpture Rise and rise until lambs become lions, the Virgin Mary figure is replaced by an animal, a fierce lion who stands next to the adolescent. As a Flower Chooses Its Color is another sculpture where a woman is giving birth to a baby who has tattoos all over his head. This represents social determinism and presumably intends to dismantle the so called “American dream” where supposedly everything is possible through hard work and perseverance.

The_Kid Rise and Rise Again Until Lambs Become Lions

RISE AND RISE AGAIN UNTIL LAMBS BECOME LIONS – BY THE_KID – 2016 – SCULPTURE IN OIL-PAINTED PLATINUM SILICONE AND VARIOUS MATERIALS NO ANIMAL WAS HURT
87 x 210 x 128 cm ©2016 THE_KID ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – COURTESY GALERIE ALB

The_Kid adheres to the ideology of American writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and even Philip Roth, who question this image of perfection in American society that has now been adopted all over the world. His interest in the younger generation finds an echo in independent filmmakers such as Larry Clark, Gus Van Sant and Harmony Korine where they portray an adolescence marked by rebellion and angst against their elders and authority. The artist doesn’t hesitate to show his disapproval and disdain for the educational system and compares it to a totalitarian regime where individuals are forced to act and think alike. Anti- heroes and lost souls are the central subject of this young artist’s works, young teenagers discouraged by the world are forgotten. To some viewers his work aesthetics can be disturbing and provocative; like those of the video artist Chris Cunningham.

Although all these references emerge from The_Kid’s sculptures and drawings, a less informed spectator can still feel drawn to his work by the masterfulness of his technique in both art forms, a masterfulness that amazes every viewer. I Go Alone, a huge canvas depicting two young boys, was painted using egg tempera, which has the effect of making it look more like a photograph than a painting. In one of the paintings in his series I Go Alone, the young men’s’ faces and range of colours remind us of the brushstrokes used by Egon Schiele in his work Seated Woman with Bent Knee.

Despite The_Kid’s seemingly gloomy vision, “death shall have no dominion” for art shall save us all, art is more than just a mere visual exercise. It becomes an activity enabling action and change. This is illustrated by the fact that most of the money earned from The _Kid’s art is given to Humans Rights Watch, a non-governmental organization helping young children in prisons and thereby challenging the current social standards.

Through The_Kid’s work, a generation, for a long time neglected and despised, finds at last a thunderous voice.  The_Kid is capable of seizing our dreams and shaping them. In every piece of his art, the artist reveals a powerful masterfulness that will create an entire universe according to his wishes. Like the great couture designer Alexander McQueen, he intends to build a whole universe in every exhibition or show, into which the spectator will be dragged and almost forced to experience art differently. By combining all epochs and categories, The Kid appears determined to produce and all-embracing art form or a modern “gesamtkunstwerk”, where music, sculpture and video will come together as a whole.

 

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Master of Disguise

Master of Disguise

In recent years, the world has been focusing their lenses on China, a country under incredible transformation. Forty years after the Cultural Revolution, Chinese contemporary art thrives under the pretense of political reformation and rapid economic growth.  It has no apparent desire for nostalgia. Yao Lu looks back to a distant past and reinvigorates photography, reclaiming art from the craft that has been made vulgar by social media.

 

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