For Cynthia Greig‘s project, “Representations,” the artist whitewashes objects with ordinary white house paint before using charcoal to outline the items, then photographing the transformed objects against a white background. The effect renders the image as two-dimensional, appearing to be digitally manipulated or hand-drawn. The objects used, now in black and white, appear more iconic and symbolic than they would appear unaltered. In her artist statement, Greig explains that her work is an homage toWilliam Henry Fox Talbot and his treatise, “The Pencil of Nature.” Greig’s photographs ask observers to consider the truth of photography by challenging our perception of the reality of common objects.
“I’m interested in how we learn to see, identify and remember, and the role images play in the codification of perceptual and mnemonic experience. By denying certain aesthetic expectations and assumptions, Representations intends to interrupt a more conventional, passive viewing experience, and provoke the viewer into seeing a photograph as if for the first time.” (via my modern met)
Uta Barth uses photography to capture her own personal dreamy moments with light, and in doing so, exposes its environmental power over our solitude and romance . . . or romance with solitude.
As a viewer, I find myself drawn to the window, the curtain, and the wall in each piece, not only because it’s illuminated accordingly with sharp visceral attention, but also because I’m intrigued with how the mundane awakens. It feels childlike, reminiscient of a world without technology and other busy distractions. Ironically, or maybe not so, it also feels wise– close to death. There’s drama in the little details as the hand pulls back the curtain or the camera approaches the glow. It’s not so much about being a voyeur as it is about being here and being still– sharing the space where light opens into mood and reflection.
Of her work, Barth notes, “In most photographs the subject and the content are one and the same thing. My work is first and foremost about perception.”
To say these pieces are only about composition: space or pattern, would be to ignore the aura around the intention of these images, which are all shot inside her home– there’s a depth that resonates with an almost intrinsic documentary feeling. Unlike James Turrell, she does not appear to be mathematically immersing us in the immediate moment of light and awareness; instead, she’s quoting from the lightness in her own life, and we are privy enough to bear witness.
With continuing scientific investigation, perception and consciousness increasingly seem to be much simpler than they truly are. Its no surprise a great deal of contemporary art address issues of perception, and many artists are skeptical of assumptions about it. This is where photographer Isabel M. Martinez picks up the topic with her series Quantum Blink. She explains the series by saying:
“According to quantum mechanics we have forty conscious moments per second, and our brains connect this sequence of nows to create the illusion of the flow of time. So, what would things look like if that intermittence was made visible? This body of work explores that hiccup, that blink, that ubiquitous fissure in the falling-into-place of things.”
Martinez modified her camera to allow her to capture two exposures in an alternating stripe pattern to create one image. The two exposures are timed only a moment apart and in a way mimic the model of perception she describes above. Perhaps, what is most powerful about the images, though, is what they don’t capture: the moment in between the two. Her series appears to mischievously encourage a curiosity and suspicion about our perception of the world around us and the amount assumption involved. How much creativity is involved in simple observation? This series is in line with Martinez’ larger art practice.
Heeseop Yoon is a Korean artist based in New York concerned with clutter, junk, and our impossibility of absolute perception. His enormous installations begin with photographs of people’s piles of hoarded objects, which, like Giacometti, he then draws and re-draws and re-draws, leaving initial lines to remind him of the instability of his own perception, then re-draws them on enormous scale using tape (which is a form of junk in its own right) galleries and on buildings. The combination of cluttered objects and the instability of perception is a pretty perfect one, they feel like the exact opposite of Gursky’s 99 Cent store photograph yet weirdly similar, both enormous in scale, both about the glut of objects in our society, but executed in inverse manners. His pen and paper drawings are amazing too, check out his website to see more!