Spooky Portraits Capture Death And Ecstasy

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Through careful manipulation, Silvia Grav‘s ethereal black and white images capture a psychological realm where death and fear lurk around each corner, a world beyond the material where rich blacks and blinding white tones evoke a heightened anxiety and ecstasy. In her spooky portraits, the self is blurred by smoke and transparency, as if transported from the page by some unknowable force.

As with the works of the prolific photographer Francesca Woodman, Grav’s images are often set against the backdrop of the domestic space. The house, associated symbolically with the female, is no longer seen as safe or comforting; deteriorated walls and filthy floors cannot protect or contain inhabitants, and a woman rises ghostly towards a lit window. In another eerie image, the sleeping female is disturbed in sleep, her delicate floral bedding overcast by a foreboding shadow whose presence forces her to cover her breast and frightfully clasp at her back. Later, she is shown to be levitating, reaching out for the comforts of her mattress.

Within the terror of the images lies a sort of ecstasy, a dreamy surrender to instability and fright. The woman subject, surrounded by smoke clouds that seem to melt away her flesh, clasps her skeleton hands in rapturous prayer. Her nighttime slumber is seen in mysterious light, and she basks in its warmth, seeming to wriggle with delirium so that the majority of her body is pulled out of the frame.

The impressive work seems to invoke the memory of troubled women artists who came before. In one poignant image, the artist seems to mirror the famous profile portrait of Virginia Woolf by the photographer George Charles Beresford, down to the dark, pulled-back hair, the white blouse, and the ominous shadow below the eye. Contributing to the dialogue on femininity and mortality began by the likes of Woodman and Woolf, Grav adds a unique and potent modern voice. (via Colossal)
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