Samavatian creates work which deconstructs the very definition of optics and the photographic medium, exploring the properties of light, reflection and shadow with photographic images created without ever holding a conventional camera. In combination with the theoretical themes, he has employed physical tools such as chemicals, papers, processes and the structure of camera obscura used in photography, including the performative element in which images are created and fixed following these choreographed procedures.
The distinct and often repetitious process inherent in these works is fundamental to our understanding of the finished image, as is the binary play between light and shadow which suggest recognisable forms from matter which is fundamentally abstract. Samavatian says of this process "Darkness is not only due to the absence of light but also lack of an object for reflection."
Samavatian’s Photographical Landscapes are immediately suggestive of immense space and distant horizons but are conjured by the repletion of small, distinct processes within the enclosed space of the dark room. Created using different grades and colours of photographic papers, these mysterious and ‘universal’ landscapes emerge from the measured dipping and panning of the paper into developer, stop, and fixing baths. The open expanse of sky is evoked in shades of tender pink by the undeveloped paper and the heaviness and irregularity of rock and earth, suggested by the ‘concretised’ and fixed black paper below.
The negatives are printed on the surface of specially prepared plaster moulds using photo emulsion, developers, and fix baths. Part sculptural part photographic, these negative moulds also have a commonality with the tradition of creating death masks using plaster; they memorialise but with a form that is easily broken. Several of Samavatian’s casts are visibly repaired, using pins to hold together the fractures which are an essential part of them, reminding us of the knocks and fractures of human existence Samavatian has repeatedly used candles both as a metaphor and object in his practice to explore the fundamental role of light in photography.
The exhibition is an opportunity to see more than 30 works from this experimental photographic artist.
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Image: Hessam Samavatian, Photographical Landscapes #2 (detail), (2015)