22
Jun
12

Preview: ‘Night’s Ocean Shore’ by Andrew Follows from ‘Through the Looking Glass Dimly’ at The Old Ambulance Depot, Edinburgh

Exhibition dates: 4th August – 18th August 2012

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This sequence is part of a joint exhibition by blind photographers Andrew Follows and Rosita McKenzie titled Through the Looking Glass Dimly to be held at The Old Ambulance Depot, Edinburgh in August 2012. The exhibition is part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. On his first trip overseas Follows is travelling to Scotland with his trusty companion Eamon, his guide dog. The words below are an analysis of Andrew’s work, a photographer who only has 15% vision in one eye and is legally blind. This is the first time anyone has written about Andrew’s work in any depth. It has been great fun to work with Andrew on this project and it is a privilege to write some hopefully insightful words about his art practice.

The exhibition by Follows and McKenzie takes a twofold path. Firstly, work from both photographers will investigate the resilience of bush-fire prone landscapes in both Scotland and Australia. Secondly, work will portray the fluid spaces of the urban and natural landscape at night in both the Southern and Northern hemispheres. The exhibition is curated by Kate Martin from the Contemporary Art Exchange.

This is a beautiful, well resolved sequence that has a very intimate narrative, a journey of discovery from the stars in the night sky to our own star, the sun and on to the illumination of the earth at night. Under any circumstances, Follows’ vision is outstanding.

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Andrew Follows Night’s Ocean Shore sequence 2012

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The Eye that sees the Sun: Andrew Follows and his Tabula rasa

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“‘The world is my representation’: this is a truth valid with reference to every living and knowing being, although man alone can bring it into reflective, abstract consciousness. If he really does so, philosophical discernment has dawned on him. It then becomes clear and certain to him that he does not know a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels the earth; that the world around him is there only as representation, i.e. only in reference to another, the representer, which is he himself.”

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Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Representation. 1818

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Please close your left eye and place your left hand over it; now make a circle with the thumb and forefinger of your right hand and curl the rest of your fingers to make a tunnel; now place this hand to your right eye and close the aperture until you can only see a small amount of the world. Imagine, seeing the world through this one eye with only fifteen percent vision. This is the field of vision, the line of sight of artist Andrew Follows.

The artist’s visual acuity (the capacity of the eye to see fine detail, measured by determining the finest detail that can just be detected) has been with him since birth. He has always seen the world this way and does not regard it as a disability. In fact, his highly refined sense of “sight” enables spaces of poss/ability (not dis/ability) within his artistic practice. The development of an abnormal keen-sightedness helps him record his impression of the world via the medium of photography.

His is not the vision of im(pair)ment as the rest of us see the world, through two eyes, but the holistic vision of a monocular eye that becomes the root of his photography. The lens of the camera becomes an extension of Self, the shutter his very existence and the digital screen on the back of the camera his tabula rasa, a “blank slate” upon which he writes his experience and perception, his knowledge of the world. His experience of vision and the evidence of his photographs become both the beginning and the end of the work, a place in which his fundamental nature resides.

In today’s polyvocal world, with the proliferation of visual protheses (such as smart phones and digital cameras) we are now seeing the encoding of increasingly mental images of the material world. Follows’ photographs are an amalgamation of these mental images and what he can physically see on the screen, for when taking a photograph he cannot see details in the image he is taking. Follows takes the ‘I can see’ of sight, located within his field of vision, and through his organization of the spatio-temporal field of vision and perception, he offers the viewer a unique ‘take’ on the world. His point of view is a collection of objects to which the eye is directed and on which it rests within a certain distance.

From a visual point of view this resting facilitates in Follows’ work a particular serenity and beauty. His skill as an artist is to combine his imagination with what he sees through the screens of camera and computer to create ‘other’ worlds. These other worlds are evidenced in Follows’ love of night time photography, as though his view of the environment, the spaces and places that surround him, is enhanced through a doubling of perception: of light, at night, through tunnel vision. Our eyes rest upon the effervescent lights of an oil refinery on the outskirts of Melbourne; the star trails blazing across the night sky; the reflections in water at Corio Bay, Geelong. Most importantly, it is the quality of light that imbues Follows’ work that enhances the narrative, the journey on which the artist takes us.

Follows’ shows us his world, and our world, as we have never seen it before. What is important in the work is that he asks us to embrace his vision and incorporate his photographs into our collective memory. The world is his representation, a truth valid with reference to every living and knowing being, brought by us into reflective, abstract consciousness. We the viewer become his eye, his only eye that sees Schopenhauer’s sun.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan
May 2012

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Andrew Follows
Untitled
from the sequence Night’s Ocean Shore
2012
Digital inkjet prints

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“Contemporary Art Exchange presents Through the Looking Glass Dimly a unique collaboration and exchange project between Australian and Scottish photographers Andrew Follows (Melbourne) and Rosita McKenzie (Edinburgh). Drawn together by their shared passion for photography, their experiences of visual impairment, and a desire to share their knowledge and skills globally, Andrew and Rosita have embarked on an ambitious visual arts project to raise awareness about visual impairment issues, celebrate recent artistic achievements and create the first international network for visually impaired artists.

Digital photography is an excellent medium for reflecting and exploring blind or vision impaired artists’ life experiences. For Rosita it provides ‘a voice’ and dispels the myth that totally blind people cannot possess vision and artistic imagination or participate fully in the visual arts. For Andrew, who has Retinitis Pigmentosa – a degenerative eye condition leaving him blind in one eye and with only fifteen percent vision in the other – it is a tool that enables him to see small glimpses of his fading world.

Andrew and Rosita have been collaborating to develop an exhibition of previous and new work. Since 2009, Andrew has documented the effects of, and resilience to, the devastating Black Saturday bushfires in the Victorian Highlands. Rosita, although having never ‘seen’ Andrew’s work, has responded to it by embarking on her own documentation of the effects of and regrowth after the unusual forest fires in the Scottish Highlands earlier this year. Andrew has also been experimenting with night photography and has developed a number of photographs capturing the Southern Hemisphere by night. In response, Rosita will develop a new body of work capturing the night sky from a Northern Hemisphere perspective. Both artists will also showcase examples from their wide range of photographs dealing with similar themes from natural and urban settings.

The project will be registered with the 2012 Edinburgh Art Festival and the Year of Creative Scotland. Through the Looking Glass Dimly will also coincide with other major international events taking place in Edinburgh during August such as the first International Cultural Summit, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Festival of Politics at The Scottish Parliament.”

Text from the Contemporary Art Exchange

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The Old Ambulance Depot
77 Brunswick Street
Edinburgh
EH7 5HS

Only open to the public during exhibitions and events

Andrew Follows Photography website

Edinburgh Art Festival website

The Old Ambulance Depot website

Contemporary Art Exchange website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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