Posts Tagged ‘photography of plants

01
Aug
19

Exhibition: ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 15th June – 11th August 2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat #5' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat #5
2017-2019

 

 

This is the first posting on three strong exhibitions at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne… and my pick of the bunch.

I admire an artist who can tell a moving personal story using historic images. An artist who has the imagination, does the research, and works on the process to fulfil the conceptualisation of an idea… to tell that personal story in strong, emotive images that really engage the viewer. Sophie Gabrielle is one such artist.

Gabrielle moves these historic images into the present, and into contemporary relevance, through clear insight into the condition of their becoming. What I mean by that is, she knows her subject matter and she knows where she wants to go with the work. So much contemporary photography is so full of concept that the images are crap. They have no feeling, they have no emotion. Will they engage me a week down the track, or a month, or a year? Will they speak to me, will they reveal themselves to me over and over again? Probably not.

In these photographs Gabrielle combines sci-fi, Village of the Dammed photographs and images of botanicals (which are either medicinal or poisonous, a reflection of the alternate medicinal methods attributed to fighting cancer) with “traces” of her DNA, then re-photographing the image many times, and then degrading the emulsion of the negative in polluted water. In doing so, she pictures worlds in which people think that they are doing the right thing, only to later find that their world has been corrupted and has lost its moral certainty. In this case, Soviet era children blasted with ultraviolet light to cure vitamin D deficiency, or to rid them of freckles, inevitably leading to cancer down the track. The process is called heliotherapy, an archaic treatment for tuberculosis that involved UV light so the kids would produce vitamin D that would fight the bacteria. But as we now know in Australia, solarium and tanning beds have been banned because they significantly increase your risk of cancer.

And why would you want to cure someone of having freckles? Or to extrapolate further, for being left handed, or being gay, or having autism. To make them wear a yellow star or a pink triangle? According to the dictionary, a cure is a method or course of remedial treatment, as for disease. A means of correcting or relieving anything that is troublesome or detrimental. Troublesome or detrimental… or different!

Gabrielle describes Worry for the Fruit the Birds Won’t Eat as “an exploration into the world of the unseen through optics, chemical interactions, and the investigative processes used to photograph something invisible to the naked eye.” Cancer. The Big C. Death. Chemotherapy. Radiation treatment. Leukemia. Melanoma. On and on. Invisible but ever. Present. Here. Now. And then she shows us photographs that seek to dissolve, to dis-solve what is present – freckles, DNA, emulsion, reality – into light. To find an answer to, explanation for, or means of effectively dealing with (a problem or mystery). I’ll let you guess what that mystery might be.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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Many thankx to the Centre for Contemporary Photography for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs to view a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition ‘Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat’ at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Sophie Gabrielle: Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne
Photographs: J. Forsyth

 

 

Through channelling her interest in psychology, science and perception, Sophie Gabrielle creates poetically arresting images that reflect the fragility of the human body, psyche and experience. Combining archival imagery from MRI scans, brain synaptic structures and science experiments from the 1930s and 1940s, Gabrielle creates haunting narratives that interweave the personal and clinical.

Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat is a dreamy and deeply personal exploration of the artists’ experiences with cancer, presenting medicinal botanicals and photographic portraits, alongside archival images from obscure medical research catalogues. Photographed through plates of glass to catch minute particles of her own skin – images are overlaid with the artists’ own DNA – creating interwoven, abstract self-portraits.

Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat is an exploration drawn from my experiences with cancer through optics and chemical interactions, and an investigative process to photograph that which is generally invisible to the naked eye.

This project started as a coping mechanism to address the impact cancer has had on my life over the past few years, after all the men in my family were diagnosed with stage four cancer. These works give a sense of the unsettled, fragile, daunting and overwhelming aspects that have culminated during this time in my life.”

~ Sophie Gabrielle, 2019

 

Biography

Sophie Gabrielle is a Melbourne based artist and curator working between analogue and digital photographic practices. Graduating from Photography Studies College in 2015, her work has been exhibited in Australia, Malaysia, New York, UK and Amsterdam. In 2018, Gabrielle was the first Australian chosen as a finalist for Foam Talent, Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam. In 2016, Gabrielle was a finalist for the Lensculture Emerging Talent Award.

Press release from the Centre for Contemporary Photography 21/09/2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat
2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat #7' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat #7
2017-2019

 

 

After discovering a number of her close family members were ill with the disease, she searched through physical and digital scientific archives connected to the various strains associated with each loved one. “I was interested in archives that were connected to my family’s own story of diagnosis, treatment, recovery and death,” she explains. The resulting images make up her body of work Worry for the Fruit the Birds Won’t Eat, which Gabrielle describes as “an exploration into the world of the unseen through optics, chemical interactions, and the investigative processes used to photograph something invisible to the naked eye.”

As Gabrielle worked through the archives, she also worked through her own personal trauma and confusion. “It was an all-consuming process, both physically and emotionally. The images I was most drawn to ran parallel to the events happening in the lives of my family members during that painful time.” Each archival discovery pointed Gabrielle in another direction, so that she eventually found major points of comparison across multiple sets of images from a variety of different sources. “My father’s diagnosis of stage four prostate cancer made me reflect on the surgical procedures in the images, and my grandfather’s diagnosis of lung cancer drew me to x-rays, especially after seeing the dark clustered patterns of abnormal cells in the imagery. Also, the collection of botanicals are either medicinal or poisonous – a reflection of the alternate medicinal methods attributed to fighting cancer.”

Upon selecting each archival image, Gabrielle used historical processes to involve her own photographic practice in the work. After leaving each image under a glass plate to collect floating particles of dust and hair, she re-photographed each piece multiple times, creating negatives that incorporate flecks of the environment’s natural disruptions. “There was something healing about getting lost within the process of creating these images, transforming their scientific purpose into something personal and poetic. I left them to collect dust in places that were significant to me and my family.”

After re-photographing the images, Gabrielle submerged her negatives in polluted water, allowing the emulsion’s degradation to further highlight the lyrical features of illness. “I actually did it while sitting on a jetty in Penang, Malaysia,” she explains. “I was thinking about the clear water that runs from taps, and how this re-enters nature to become ill and polluted. It was this unseen danger that intrigued me, and I wanted to incorporate that into the work. The microbes in the polluted water ate away at the film, leaving their own marks upon the negatives before I made the prints.”

This incorporation of intervention and decay into her photographic process soon became an integral part of Gabrielle’s own healing process, affording her a clear state of mind to work through a number of complex emotions.

Extract from Cat Lachowskyj. “Worry for the Fruit the Birds Won’t Eat,” on the Lens Culture website [Online] Cited 21/07/2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat #1' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat #1
2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat #13' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat #13
2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat
2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle. 'Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won't Eat' 2017-2019

 

Sophie Gabrielle
Worry For The Fruit The Birds Won’t Eat
2017-2019

 

 

Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George St, Fitzroy
Victoria 3065, Australia
Phone: + 61 3 9417 1549

Opening Hours:
Wednesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm
Sunday, 1pm – 5pm

Centre for Contemporary Photography website

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11
Oct
15

Exhibition: ‘Karl Blossfeldt. From Nature’s Studio’ at Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

Exhibition dates: 24th July – 25th October 2015

Curator: Simone Förster

 

 

Karl Blossfeldt’s photographs have been associated with Modernism (Bauhaus), Surrealism and New Objectivity / New Vision.

“Blossfeldt’s factual yet finely detailed imagery was praised by Walter Benjamin, who declared that Karl Blossfeldt ‘has played his part in that great examination of the inventory of perception, which will have an unforeseeable effect on our conception of the world’. He compared him to Maholy-Nagy and the pioneers of New Objectivity, and ranked his achievements alongside the great photographers August Sander and Eugene Atget. The Surrealists also championed him, and George Bataille included his images in the periodical Documents in 1929.” (Wikipedia)

Hailed as a master for discovering a hitherto ‘unknown universe’ and for his exemplary technical feats as a photographer Blossfeldt’s work is, nevertheless, decidedly subjective as author Hanako Murata notes in her excellent essay on the artist Material Forms in Nature: The Photographs of Karl Blossfeldt (2014). “Not only did he carefully select, arrange, and in some cases physically modify his specimens, but his meticulous attention to detail and image refinement continued throughout each step of production, beginning with his negatives.” Blossfeldt uses the logic of the plant and the logic of his mind to achieve his final vision. A/symmetry as art form.

It was Blossfeldt’s conception of the world that created this inventory of perception. He was the human being who recognised these structures, who used the photographs as teaching aids, who saw them as art and a way of restoring the link between man and nature. His vision and his alone. Nothing was left to chance, everything was controlled. You only have to look at his Self portrait, Rome (1895, below) to see that here is a determined man. His body points one way in suit with braces and stiff, high collared shirt, hand clenched at waist while his head snaps towards us with the most incredible stare, almost piercing the viewer with its ferocity. You can still feel that stare after all these decades.

Ranking his photographs alongside that of Sander and Atget is a big call. Personally, too big a call. If I had to put my finger on it, what they lack for me is any form of context in relationship to an externalised nature. They rely on the form of the plant and not its relationship to the world in which it lives. To discover those forms in science and then transfer them to the field of art is a truly inspiring vision that only Blossfeldt had. He manipulated reality to achieve his beautiful, formal re/presentations. But do they take me to the places that Sander and Atget’s photographs do. No. Here is the thing itself, and not what else it can stand for. Despite their call to Surrealism, their attention to detail leaves the images little room for rumination. Perhaps he took each step of that image refinement too far. Sometimes you need a little chaos in your world order, for the world of pattern cannot exist without randomness and mutation.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Pinakothek der Moderne for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Download Hanako Murata’s essay Material Forms in Nature: The Photographs of Karl Blossfeldt (2.3Mb pdf)

 

 

“If I give someone a horsetail he will have no difficulty making a photographic enlargement of it – anyone can do that. But to observe it, to notice and discover its forms, is something that only a few are capable of.”

“My botanical documents should contribute to restoring the link with nature. They should reawaken a sense of nature, point to its teeming richness of form, and prompt the viewer to observe for himself the surrounding plant world.”

“The plant never lapses into mere arid functionalism; it fashions and shapes according to logic and suitability, and with its primeval force compels everything to attain the highest artistic form.”

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Karl Blossfeldt

 

“The striking uniformity of Blossfeldt’s photographs suggests an excellent mastery of studio technique, and indeed, for all the prints’ subsequent associations with New Objectivity, Blossfeldt’s work was decidedly subjective, insofar as he was not shy about modifying his subjects or his images to achieve his final vision. Not only did he carefully select, arrange, and in some cases physically modify his specimens, but his meticulous attention to detail and image refinement continued throughout each step of production, beginning with his negatives.”

.
Hanako Murata Material Forms in Nature: The Photographs of Karl Blossfeldt 2014, p.2

 

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Self portrait, Rome' 1895

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Self portrait, Rome
1895
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Self portrait, Rome' 1895 (detail)

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Self portrait, Rome (detail)
1895
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Nature study (chestnut)' 1890s

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Nature study (chestnut)
1890s
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Four Herbariums with groomed Thistels and Delphinium' undated

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Four Herbariums with groomed Thistels and Delphinium
Undated
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Papaver orientale. Oriental Poppy' before 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Papaver orientale. Oriental Poppy
Before 1928
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

 

“The photographs of plants by the university professor and amateur photographer Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) are among the milestones in the history of 20th-century photography. To mark the 150th anniversary of Blossfeldt’s birth, the Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich is staging a comprehensive exhibition on his life and work.

Focal points of the exhibition are Blossfeldt’s early training as a modeller, his work together with the reformer Moritz Meurer, the photographer’s own handcrafted designs and his teaching at the Königliche Kunstgewerbeschule in Berlin. The preliminary works he made for his seminal publication Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature) of 1928 and the reception it received at that time, for example at the Bauhaus in Dessau in 1929, form an additional aspect.

The exhibition comprises some 120 photographs, including numerous large-format, historical exhibition prints. Collages of his work, drawings in the artist’s own hand, drafts, archival material and documents render the concept behind Blossfeldt’s teaching and work visible.

The Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation manages the Karl Blossfeldt Archive with its unique holdings of original photographs, negatives and documents by Karl Blossfeldt. Together with a large volume of photographs in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, an exceptionally high-quality presentation of Karl Blossfeldt’s photographic work can now be staged and its development shown by means of historical documents and archival material that have hardly ever been seen by the general public.”

Text from the Pinakothek der Moderne website

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Adiantum pedatum. Maidenhair Fern' before 1926

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Adiantum pedatum. Maidenhair Fern
Before 1926
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Eryngium bourgatii. Bourgatis Eryngo' before 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Eryngium bourgatii. Bourgatis Eryngo
Before 1928
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. Heracleum sphondylium. Hogweed' 1898-1932

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Heracleum sphondylium. Hogweed
1898-1932
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

 

 

Karl Blossfeldt (June 13, 1865 – December 9, 1932 – age 67) was a German photographer, sculptor, teacher, and artist who worked in Berlin, Germany. He is best known for his close-up photographs of plants and living things, published in 1929 as, Urformen der Kunst. He was inspired, as was his father, by nature and the way in which plants grow. He believed that ‘the plant must be valued as a totally artistic and architectural structure.’ Among his students at the Berlin Arts and Crafts School was Heinz Warneke. From 1924, he was professor at the Vereinigte Staatsschulen für freie und angewandete Kunst (United State School for Fine and Applied Art) in Berlin.

Blossfeldt made many of his photographs with a home-made camera that could magnify the subject up to thirty times its size, revealing details within a plant’s natural structure. Appointed for a teaching post at the Institute of Royal Arts Museum in 1898 (where he remained until 1930), he established an archive for his photographs. Blossfeldt never received formal training in photography. Blossfeldt developed a series of home-made cameras that allowed him to photograph plant surfaces in unprecedented magnified detail. This reflected his enduring interest in the repetitive patterns found in nature’s textures and forms.

In Berlin from the late nineteenth century until his death, Blossfeldt’s works were primarily used as teaching tools and were brought to public attention in 1928 by his first publication Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature). Published in 1928 when Blossfeldt was 63 and a professor of applied art at the Berliner Kunsthochschule (Berlin Academy of Art), Urformen der Kunst quickly became an international bestseller and in turn, made Blossfeldt famous almost overnight. His contemporaries were impressed by the abstract shapes and structures in nature that he revealed. Swiftly regarded as a seminal book on photography, Blossfeldt’s factual yet finely detailed imagery was praised by Walter Benjamin, who declared that Karl Blossfeldt ‘has played his part in that great examination of the inventory of perception, which will have an unforeseeable effect on our conception of the world’. He compared him to Maholy-Nagy and the pioneers of New Objectivity, and ranked his achievements alongside the great photographers August Sander and Eugene Atget. The Surrealists also championed him, and George Bataille included his images in the periodical Documents in 1929.

In 2001 Urformen der Kunst was included in “The Book of 101 Books” as one of the seminal photographic books of the twentieth century. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Blumenbachia hieronymi. Blumenbachia' 1898 - 1932

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Blumenbachia hieronymi. Blumenbachia
1898-1932
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Dipsacus laciniatus. Cutleaf Teasel' before 1927

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Dipsacus laciniatus. Cutleaf Teasel
Before 1927
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Equisetum hyemale. Winter Horsetail' before 1929

 

Karl Blossfeldt
Equisetum hyemale. Winter Horsetail
Before 1929
Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, München

 

 

Pinakothek der Moderne
Barer Strasse 40
Munich

Opening hours:
Daily except Monday 10am – 6pm
Thursday 10am – 8pm

Pinakothek der Moderne website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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