slash | line | bloom | fuzz | time
Cafe Délice, Brighton 3 – 31 October 2010
This exhibition is the culmination of the work of a group of four adults, initially developed during the course Abstraction, Photography and Play run by Eva Kalpadaki at Phoenix Brighton in Autumn 2009. Over the months following the completion of the course, Eva supervised the development of the individual photographic projects from early conceptualisation through to final printing and exhibiting.
Abstract Encounters presents a diverse approach to the abstract photographic image. Exploring different aspects of the concept of abstraction, this exhibition draws references to historical developments in art and photography. From conceptual preoccupations about the instantaneity of photography and the flatness of its seamless surface through to formal and structural concerns and from impressionistic views of the world through to minimalist arrangements of reality, the works presented here ask the spectators to experience an encounter of a different kind; a meeting with unexpected views of the world.
James Gormley is using a combination of techniques to subvert the conventional imagery of touristic photography. At the same time, he is concerned with ontological and self-referential questions about the nature of the photographic medium regarding the ‘time’ and the ‘frame’ aspects of it. In balcony view - Kensington Gardens and Pier at Brighton Beach, he rotates his camera on a plane and simultaneously synchronises it with the movement of his eyes across a scene, visualising in an image the operator’s gestures and actions but also creating visual metaphors for projecting his thoughts and feelings at the time of the act of taking a photograph. Bringing cinematic references to his own work Gormley remarks that his images are ‘an abstraction of a thought created by a person’s vision; the condensing of a short film into a single shot, which encompasses the thoughts and feelings of a period and scene’. The instantaneity of photography is challenged here as his images suppress an extended period of time into one frame.
Similarly, in under construction-Falmer stadium, a structural composition of overlapping frames is generated out of the operator’s programme to introduce equal periods of breaks in the flow of the camera’s rotation. The visual result is a multifaceted expression of reality, which conceals its otherwise instantly recognisable features.
Gormley’s photographs of iconic and popular places of Brighton haunt us with their compelling painterly qualities of light and colour, as they do not seem to be snapshots of a traveller; they are impressions of a scene but unlike the Impressionists’ momentary glance on reality, these images are documents of the duration of a passing time, which reveal a new unknown face to the famous and overly photographed Brighton touristic locations.
Eva Kalpadaki (curator) presents us with an artefact, a document of Photography, in a conceptual play to subvert the idea associated with it of seamlessly recording everything that stands out there in the world in front of the camera’s lens. Kalpadaki enters a performative act of slashing the surface of an unexposed 5x4½ black and white negative. A cameraless image produced from scanning the processed negative becomes the witness of this violent act as it carries all the traces of her forceful gesture that disturbs the flatness of its seamless surface. The visual result is an abstract pictorial space, which seems to be ‘bleeding’ from the traces caused by the deformation act of slashing.
Her work is concerned with issues regarding the utopian idea of ‘flatness’ of modernist painting and the ‘seamlessness’ of photography, which she challenges by engaging in the abstract expressionist act of slashing the medium’s surface that resonates with Lucio Fontana’s 1960 Spatial Concept `Waiting'. But unlike Fontana’s elaborate act of cutting the raw canvas, here Kalpadaki has forcefully violated the surface of the negative in an attempt to beat its resistance. Blindly handling the negative in a dark bag, her only guide were the tactile sensations between her hands and the materiality of the negative.
Chris Marks-Billson’s photographs attempt to challenge our perception of the horizon and to subvert the tradition of the seascape in painting and photography. By eliminating most of the references that point to the traditional seascape, Marks-Billson reduces it to the horizon line itself, thus fixing it, as he reflects, ‘in its simplest manifestation, as a line; hopefully removing the more obvious connotations and enabling a renewed appreciation’.
Working towards making concrete sense of the horizon’s intangible nature, he draws upon formal similarities to the minimalist tradition of sculpture and painting by treating the image as an object, as a tangible part of reality, which he handles and rearranges in the white empty space of his digitally generated canvas. At the same time, this gesture of his implies that the horizon line functions as a separation line at two levels of meaning; at a phenomenological level, between the sea and sky, as optically perceived, and at a semiotic level, between the indexicality of the photograph of the manipulated horizon and the pictorial emptiness of the white graphic space that surrounds it.
Laurence Olver, in his labyrinthine, colourful, abstract compositions, focuses our attention on the plasticity and formal qualities of flowers by examining, as he notes, ‘the paths and structures visible in nature through close-up photography’.
Olver is clearly concerned with modernist preoccupations of the medium by seeking to find new ways of looking at the world in employing techniques, such as close-up, to render a familiar subject in an unusual and abstract form. But, in opposition to the clear and objective depiction of their subjects by the photographers of New Objectivity in Europe and America in 1920’s and 1930’s, Olver seems to follow a different strategy in exploring the hidden paths of the flowers’ petals. Instead of presenting us with one single view abstracted from a part of the flower as result of the monocular vision of the camera, he is attempting to restore the parts into a whole by giving us a cubist approach to his subject in depicting multiple viewpoints of it.
His photographs, three sets of nine images each, depict one flower broken up not only into multiple single viewpoints but also into one of the three basic colours of the additive RGB model. With this division of light into its constituent parts, Olver creates associations to the first experiments with RGB in early colour photography but at the same time he conceptually plays with the origin of their making. That is the Photoshop, which has become the 21st century’s predominant darkroom tool.
Shaun Pryszlak masterly uses the blur effect to draw a comparison between photography and music in the way that, as he remarks, ‘photography like music is all about how you use your tools and instruments. You can either play it straight or you can mess with it’. Presenting five out-of-focus photographs of an electric guitar, seamlessly arranged together, one next to the other in one final image, he quietly suggests that he can subvert the way the guitar looks as easily as the way it originally sounds. His images function as metaphors for music, for which he writes that they stand as ‘visual equivalents of plugging it into an infinite delay pedal, propping it up against the amplifier and heading to the bar’.
In this sense, he presents us with an Equivalent. Minor White in his 1963 essay Equivalence: The Perennial Trend wrote that ‘when a photographer presents us with what to him is an Equivalent, he is telling us in effect that this is his metaphor of a feeling about something, which is not for the subject he photographed, but for something else’.
Pryszlak uses photography in its reductive, non- representational form, not to document the instrument of guitar but to express his thoughts that the music produced by the guitar can correspond to him. The only difference in Pryszlak’s case is that he sees his photographs as an equivalent not for the music that the electric guitar is originally associated with, but for the sounds and music it can potentially play and produce by subverting its programme of operation.