Obscure Camera

Obscure-Camera-invite        My new exhibition is a group show on the outer limits of photographic practice. Each artist explores some non-traditional zone of the medium: non-capture, non-representation and other arcane fields. It opens at Tacit Contemporary Art on June 8.

My works are abstract images from my Chemistry of Chance series. During  decades of cleaning up darkrooms I’ve recovered many discarded prints from the rubbish bins. Students see a print going wrong in the developer and throw it in the bin without washing it. The print sits there with the developer, silver and oxygen making chemical reactions in the dark.

By the end of the day they’ve dried out and the chemical stains are preserved and light-stable. After scanning and Photoshopping to a small degree, I’ve printed them as much larger pigment prints. They fit into my interest in entropy and automatic processes found in the border regions of photography. I see them as Concrete photography, the Swiss and German abstract movement.

It not a sign of something, but is itself something. It is not what is represented but what is present. It engenders objects of itself and thus fulfills the central criterion of every concrete art: self-reference. – Gottfried Jaeger.

Chance5                            Greg Neville, Chemistry of Chance 5

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Chance Chemistry

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Greg Neville, installation at Edmund Pearce gallery

Chemistry of Chance, my exhibition with Greg Wayn, has opened at Edmund Pearce gallery, the excellent photography gallery situated in the Nicholas building.

This project is a first experiment in abstract photography, a category I’ve always been suspicious of as it contradicts the mission of photography to record reality. But after reading about Concrete Photography, a separate category from ‘abstract’ which goes to the physical essence and ontology of the medium, I changed my mind. The exhibition is a series of pigment print enlargements of scanned black & white reject prints found in darkroom rubbish bins. This may disqualify it from a strict reading of ‘concrete’ because they are interpretations, one generation away from the originals, not the actual things. That was deliberate in our interpretation, we wanted them to be our own ‘art’.

They are intriguing images. As the sun sets on photo-chemical photography and it drifts into a twilight of cult use, its materials and processes acquire a certain romance. It’s a dimension that is not available to digital photography.

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Chemistry of Chance

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Chemistry of Chance, my exhibition with Greg Wayn, has an invitation card – it’s official, Edmund Pearce gallery has just released it. The gallery is notable for the beauty of its graphics, and in this case Greg’s found image graces the front. The gallery is in the famed Nicholas Building in Swanston St, and the opening is on Thursday February 14, 6-8pm.

I’m particularly pleased to be showing at this gallery because it has established itself as a major venue for new photography in only one short year. The quality and presentation has been high and the gallery has uncovered a lot of very good photographers previously unknown to me.

Chemistry of Chance is a two-person show derived from reject prints found in darkroom rubbish bins. Frustrated students would throw mistakes into the rubbish where they would “stew” in the dark, changing through the action of chemicals, water, air and time. They reveal the innate beauty and surprise of analogue photography’s photo-chemical materials.

Greg and I have scanned these darkroom mistakes, opening them up to make beautiful pigment prints that are un-cropped versions of the originals.

http://www.facebook.com/events/531737673527879/

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Darkroom Chance

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Greg Neville, untitled, 2013

I’m working on an exhibition with Greg Wayn to open in mid-February at Edmund Pearce gallery.

The exhibition is called Chemistry of Chance and will be an exercise in Concrete photography, (subject of an earlier post). ‘Concrete’ is distinguished here from ‘abstract’. Concrete means real or actual, a thing that is itself and nothing more. Abstract is used for works that may appear non-representational but are derived – abstracted – from representational imagery or things in the world.

This work is non-representational, it has no referent in the world outside of itself. The images were generated by the chance interactions of developer chemicals, water and air, in the waste bins of college darkrooms. Impatient students, seeing disappointing results appearing in the developer, throw the dripping prints into the bins where they change in the darkness in alchemical ways.

The artist here is blind chance, no human intention is involved not even by the student. The weird and beautiful patterns that occur are only discovered at the end of the day when the weary teacher tidies the darkroom. By that time the print has dried, rendering any image permanent, I have some that are thirty years old.

The images are selected by the normal criteria of visual art, form, colour, balance etc. They are scanned and Photoshopped to bring out what was perceived in the original print. They are not cropped.

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Concrete Photography

Gottfried Jäger, Foto object 1998I

The Latin origin of the word abstract, “drawing away from”, suggests an art that started in figurative representation but moved away from it into non-representation. The careers of Kandinsky, Mondrian and Pollock all show a gradual development from realistic depiction into pure abstraction.

But there are artists whose work started in non-representation, whose thinking was already based on abstraction. The word used for this is Concrete art (Art Concret), a term first employed in the 1930s and promoted by the Swiss Max Bill. He famously declared that he believed in an art largely derived from mathematics.

Obviously ‘concrete’ doesn’t refer to a building material, but to something real and actual. Concrete artists see a work as existing in its own ontology, without reference to external images, feelings, memories or ideas. They are things that should be taken on their own terms.

In photography this is a difficult idea because the medium is “wedded to the world through the mechanism of recorded light”. Photography captures the world outside of the camera, a “quotation of reality”, as John Berger described it. If a painting is something added to the world, a photograph is something taken from it.

Gottfried Jäger has dedicated his long career to Concrete Photography, and his writings and artworks help to define the movement. The images displayed here are simple pieces of black & white darkroom paper, exposed to light, processed and carefully cut. They are from a series called Fotomaterialarbeiten – Photo material works – a suitably objective title. More can be found by clicking on his name.

In the above image, a sheet of paper has been exposed with an X and an X has been cut into the paper alongside. In the image below, sheets of paper have been exposed and cut to create the impression of a single folded sheet. Look closely.

According to Jäger, they dispense with depicting external objects and posit themselves as the theme. The results are pure images of light, photographs of photography.

A Concrete photograph attains object character. It is not a sign of something, but is itself something. It is not what is represented but what is present. It engenders objects of itself and thus fulfills the central criterion of every concrete art: self-reference.

                                                 Gottfried Jäger, Foto object 1999XV

.The archive of Jäger’s photography can be found by clicking here.

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