“These are spirit drawings.
There is something of theatre in all of this. Not the regular dramatic theatre of proscenium and auditorium in which a codified dramatic performance is witnessed by a detached audience, but the theatre of encounter and participation.
This is the way in which Ballen’s apparitions are made and remade, both individual and as series (acts). Their agency resides in the participatory encounter they demand and the psychological depths they evince.
In Ballen’s apparition, as in carnival, bodies are always immanent, mutable. They exist in states of constant becoming without resolution and as often as not in fluid processes of intermingling. Living, thinking like skulls are fractured and their invisible contents are scooped out by disembodied hand. Ballen says simply, “the work actually makes people generally uneasy because it affects concepts of normality and order.”
Ballen’s figures are primitively rendered. In spite of the nature of his primary medium, photography, in his drawings he never reaches for mimetic representation, preferring instead the directness of the more or less unmediated image from within. In this he is a fellow traveler with the French painter Jean Dubuffet, with whom he also shares an interest in what Dubffet calls Art brut and has come to be known in English as “outsider art”. A contemporary of Artaud, Dubuffet argues that“art is another means of cognition” that traverses the boundaries between dream and reality: “its ways are clairvoyance”. Painting, he says (and this also holds for the drawing process that lies behind Ballen’s apparitions), is also a language and furthermore one that is “far more immediate” than words.
But it is a primal language, closer to the things themselves and almost incantatory in its operations. He claims that painting and drawing “can more or less evoke things at will, that is, with more or less presence.
At any degree between being and non-being.” Moreover, he says, painting “opens wider gates to the inner dancing of the painters mind.”
According to Dubuffet, compliance with social dictates and norms dims and ultimately extinguishes this power, so people who might produce such works in anything approaching a pure form would only be found in places situated outside or in margins of the dominant culture. Dubuffet found his examples of outsider art primarily in the psychiatric hospitals and spiritualist saloons of Europe in the 1940s. Ballen encountered his in the rural dorps (small towns) and inner city ”boarding houses ”and squats of South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. This discovery resulted first in Ballen’s increased interest in incorporating these drawing and constructions in photographs that maintained something of a documentary impulse.
Then, he says, “around 1999, drawing started to come into pictures with a vengeance. It was round about this time that I started to let the people make drawings; I asked people to make drawings on the wall. And then I made this photographs. In a way the issue of Art brut in the pictures wasn’t necessarily a conceptual one but an experimental one.”
The encounter also reawakened Ballen’s own urge to make marks, to draw; a practice he pursues intensively and with immediacy so that his images might carry more or less unmediated messages from psychic depths.
Ballen says his work “is about the human condition in a place. It’s place in my mind. Reflecting the human condition in Roger Ballen’s condition” His drawings are perhaps the purest, most direct expressions of this. However, in spite of the immediacy of their construction and unlike Dubuffet’s paintings, the drawings which constitute Ballen’s apparitions are accessible only in their spectral form- indeed they now only exist in that form- placing a further layer of separation between viewer and thing in itself.
(…)Yet spectral images, these are somehow doubly tantalizing and immediate in their effect. Humans, after all, tend to be drawn irresistibly to ghosts.”
"The night, the sex, the wandering... and the need to photograph it all, not so much the perceived act but more like a simple exposure to common and even extreme experiences... It is an inseparable part of photographic practice, in a certain sense, to grasp at existence or risk, desire, the unconsciousness and chance, all of which continue to be essential elements. No moral posturing, no judgement, simply the principle of affirmation, necessary to explore certain universes, to go deep inside, without any care. A ride into photography to the vanishing point of orgasm and death.
I try to establish a state of nomadic worlds, partial and personal, systematic and instinctual, of physical spaces and emotions where I am fully an actor. I avoid defining beforehand, what I am about to photograph. The shots are taken randomly, according to chance meetings and circumstances. The choices made, considering all the possibilities, are subconscious. But the obsessions remain constant: the streets, fear, obscurity, and the sexual act.... Not to mention perhaps, in the end, the simple desire to exist.
Beyond the subject, the lost souls and the nocturnal drifting, the scenes of fellatio and of bodies in utter abandon, I seek to reveal some kind of break up through the mixture of bodies and feelings, to reveal fragments of society that escape from any analysis and instant visualization of the event, but nonetheless, are its principal elements.
The brutality of the form, the intensity of the vision obligates us, still more than images that pretend to document, to involve ourselves with the reality of what we are seeing. The spectator can exist then, no longer finding himself in the position of voyeur or consumer but as sharing an extreme experience, wondering about the state of the world and of himself."
Antoine D' Agata
"Experiments in photography grow out of an idea about photography’s capacity to give form to the intangible. Gundi Falk is an image maker with a unique ability to construct visual experiments. She is not interested in catching the real, the visible, but in what underlies the visible. Falk explores the possibility of constructing reality and has faith in the idea that constructions are as real as anything.
By questioning the very essence of the photographic process, she subverts the imaging process by depicting the chemical and physical events in a partially calculated way, rendering images not developing them. Working in many ways more like a painter than a photographer, she replaces the canvas with photographic paper and attempts to let representations emerge out of the abstract materiality of the chemicals as she manipulates them. She interprets and responds as the image progresses in front of her, incorporating what August Strindberg called, and later the Surrealists and Abstract Expressionists, ‘chance in artistic creation’.
The images on display are the result of a complex game of controlled and uncontrollable chance, impossible to achieve by any other means. They hover between form and formlessness, show what has never really existed and leave room to appeal to the imagination, accepting elements of mystery, revealing the unseen, the intangible, entering the labyrinth of the subconscious. Although landscapes in subject matter, these works can also be seen as metaphors for her inner moods, offering insight into the mind of the artist.
The chemigram, invented in 1956 by Belgian artist Pierre Cordier with whom Falk has been collaborating and widely exhibiting since 2011, remains an opaque process. Although commonly described as a camera-less medium, it cannot be classed as a photograph or a photogram, for it does not rely solely on light or negatives to produce an image.
As in the case of the photogram, the result is unique.
This camera-less photographic images are the result of exposing photographic paper to the same chemicals usually employed to develop and fix images, but in unconventional ways. Additional materials localize and particularize the chemical events taking place. They include oil and varnish, but also honey, syrup or nail polish, all of which interact with the chemicals and paper in different ways.
Methods and aesthetics associated with early science photography and the forms of vision it made available, have surface again in recent years with profound and enduring influences into the field of fine art photographic practice. This influence, rooted in the sense of wonder with which scientific images are often met, has helped to introduce a radically abstract vocabulary in the work of a range of artists interested in the materiality of the photographic print, particularly, the ways in which photographic chemicals react, and in exploring the non figurative effects created by camera-less techniques.
The first camera-less techniques were explored at the dawn of photography in the 1830s, were again relevant during the 1920s, and have been rediscovered by contemporary artists in the midst of the digital age. Various reasons seem to be responsible for the revival in recent years of an increasing interest in camera-less photography. The main reasons among them are the rapid expansion of networked digital technologies and their impact on traditional forms of photography which, in turn, have triggered nostalgia for the alchemical appeal of alternative chemistry-based processes now being liberated from their descriptive functions and reborn in radically new ways.
The growing interest in camera-less photography has reinforced and restored the idea of the photograph as object, the notion that photographs are not only images but also things, and that photography can be a generative rather than a mimetic art form."
"India is like a labyrinth for your perception ─ Steve McCurry doesn’t show you this labyrinth from above but his images are like arrows inside the labyrinth signalling the directions in which you can walk your way out.
Nobel Prize winner, Octavio Paz, who lived in New Delhi for a few years as the Mexican Ambassador to the country, wrote in his seminal essay, “In Light of India”, about how he had been surprised by the country’s violent contrasts: “Modernity and archaism, luxury and poverty, sensuality and asceticism, neglect and efficiency”. The difference between any good portfolio on India and McCurry’s is that any other photographer will enhance all of these contrasts; McCurry gives you a key to understand them. Observe the proud, reassuring smile of the green, holi man in a situation where anyone else would be either compunctious or hysterical; observe the orderly chaos at Agra fort railway station, a composure that lasted only the time of a shutter speed and immediately after that vanished forever in the vortex of India’s frantic existence. Or even, observe the beauty and serenity of everyday life in the perfect choreography of the three, blue men sitting on a flight of stairs. These elusive moments will give you the key to India’s contrasts."
Gonçalo Cadilhe, from the Catalogue's preface
"A descoberta de um livro de Maurice Maeterlink “L’intelligence des fleurs”, 1907, intervencionado por um autor desconhecido chamado David Dosrius, alias Pagano (Fornelleres 1944), é o ponto de partida de uma investigação desenvolvida pelo editor independente e curador espanhol Gonzalo Golpe que agora se apresenta na Galeria Barbado em Lisboa.
A mostra recolhe obras originais do autor, produzidas entre 1965 e 1967, cedidas por colecionadores privados, por familiares e amigos bem como material recuperado pelo curador desde 2011.
Apresentam-se paralelamente obras de dois autores atuais, Noé Sendas (Bruxelas 1972) e Salvi Danés (Barcelona 1985), em diálogo com David Dosrius.
Pagano nasceu em Fonelleres, na zona de l’Empordà, província de Girona, onde trabalhará numa situação de recolhimento voluntário, longe das influências dos círculos artísticos catalães.
Entrega-se por completo à observação da natureza e transforma um velho celeiro da sua casa de família em atelier. Aí produz sem descanso uma vasta quantidade de obras, misturando constantemente disciplinas artísticas, com a liberdade de quem cria não para interagir com o mundo da arte mas como exercício de auto-conhecimento e posicionamento vital.
Esta autonomia feroz que transparece não só da sua obra mas também dos seus escritos, aproxima-o do anarco-individualismo de Thoreau e também do modo de vida da Seita do Cão – o cinismo grego – corrente filosófica que reivindicava a autonomia do indivíduo face aos poderes do Estado e às convenções sociais.
A obra de Maeterlink não só motivou uma reaproximação às origens como foi também a causa de uma rutura que afetou todas as dimensões da sua vida.
A exposição que agora se apresenta na Galeria Barbado não se limita a uma reconstrução biográfica e a obra realizada entre 1965 e 1967, algo que limitaria a sua projeção e a sua pertinência. Assim, entendeu-se necessário sublinhar o vigor da obra de David Dosrius colocando-a em diálogo com a obra de dois autores atuais: Noé Sendas e Salvi Danés."
“Everywhere I look I see the possibilities of seeing something I have never seen before. Contrary to those who think otherwise, nothing has been done before.
A chronology only makes sense when there are enough years within it to see a progression. In my case, there is no evolution, just the years clicking ahead, images that are made of the same subject matter—myself—gradually aging. Yet, and hopefully, the possibilities are endless for creating a difference from one image to the next. I admire painters like Morandi or the documentary record that Atget left behind. I am swayed by nuances within similarities. Make them different—keep them the same: that has been my mantra.
I work in the nude to instill a sense of timelessness in the pictures. Timelessness here means that an image with just the human form and nature in its primal state could conceivably have been produced 500 years ago had photography been invented then. We can drift into a past in such photographs that goes well beyond any family tree. Photography is the best time travel vehicle I know. We just have to make sure we keep the planet looking the way it always has. The heaven we’ve been given is here on earth.
While my work stubbornly adheres to the same formulas by the limitations of the narrowness of my scope—the same body over four-and- a-half decades, never clothed: the same arms, legs, hands and feet albeit with an aging face and skin—diversity arrives from bringing the work together in exhibition (…)”
Arno Rafael Minkkinen, from the catalogue's preface
“Martin Parr has dedicated an entire body of work to painting all the seasonal migrations of people with dabbing brush strokes which can be likened to the regular and consistent path of migratory birds when warm weather comes. Choosing vacations by the beach is understandable in that it focuses on good times, the sun, the sea and the beach which crashes into the somewhat sleazy reality of crowds, noise and filth.
If he turns to the funny side of the situation by suggesting that the oversized plastic swan in the foreground is part of the beachgoer’s fun or that the lollypop has taken the place of the volleyball, he makes use of physical comedy when it is the ice cream being eaten and dripping down their faces which makes two children who can’t stop smiling happy, setting them in the classic pose of a vacation photo. And of course, completing the story we find the same ice cream cone, which is giant this time, set as the ultimate dream of happiness, becoming a statue at Weymouth beach. Furthermore, comedy of manners or comedy of character are the devices which he uses to paint a picture of specific «types», such as the “movie star” in white-framed glasses or the smoking lady with brightly painted nails, revealing her junky jewelry on arms which already show their age, and we find ourselves asking if both of them still dream of being in a Miss something or other pageant.
Yet, if he wants to make us smile or even laugh, Martin Parr is in no way gratuitously cruel, only the events, situations, connected ideas or characters, and especially this little grain of sand which slips into the story, this discrepancy between imagined happiness and a much more dull reality tips the balance of the picture into absurdity. That’s how the young boy’s day of swimming at the beach, what he had been dreaming about all summer long, is polluted by trash collecting on the beach. Is the sunbather’s sun tanning threatened by this out of place tractor which seems as if it wants to crush her and are the blue protective tanning booth goggles still out of place on a beach...
And to back up his statement the artist masterfully manipulates his color palette which is often intense, sometimes too vivid and even unlikely when he uses his flash in aytime. It makes meaningless detail almost grandiose and focuses our attention on the little nothings of daily life.”
Agnès de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, from the exhibition catalogue’s preface
Arno Rafael Minkkinen
Pagano (David DosRius)