This searing light, filtered for shadows investigates how art can act as a filter; filtering our perception via conceptual and material considerations, revealing (light) or concealing (shadow), the corporeal elements that help to formulate the composition or understanding of a work of art. There is also a speculative system, an intangible filter that is spectrally present, yet physically absent. This latter form is metaphorically closer to the Great Filter, a provisional name for a solution to the Fermi Paradox: the question of “where is everyone?” — in the cosmic sense. The Great Filter is a system we acknowledge is there, but of which we know nothing beyond its conclusive impact: to radically reduce (or filter) all that lies before it. Some artworks are representative of this speculative filter, the unnameable otherness that filters within art — though not just for reductive reasons. This exhibition will ask: Do they speak for it, for the filter? Or do they reflect it?
The work of Daniel Boyd expands on the idea of revealing and concealing through what Gestalt psychology terms “the law of closure”, the human tendency to complete shapes and figures where they are not whole, to fill in the visual gap. For Boyd — who articulates the law through a distinctive pointillist technique across canvas and video — this speaks to removed information and history, especially as it relates to his Aboriginal and Vanuatuan heritage. His works offer a predominantly blackened surface (concealing), leaving only a series of “lenses” revealing the visual narrative below. Revealing narratives also underpins Richard Frater’s recent body of work, which captures the imprint of untimely death inexorably given when birds collide with windows. Both inviting and lethal, birds are unable to perceive the glass, yet they engage with the way it reflects natural surroundings or shows the way to alternate environments through its total transparency. Physical traces of the impact, the fats and dust amongst its feathers, create a proto-image that simultaneously preserves the bird in flight and its sudden demise — a duality Frater photographs. The window represents an impassive yet brutal filtration system, revealing itself to some while remaining an undeniable existential threat to those for which it remains concealed.
Polish artist Maria Loboda creates works that investigate cultural codes, exploring ancient narratives found within certain objects, which she then passes through a contemporary lens fueled with modern references, manifesting a transformative phase. In one series of photographs presented in This searing light, filtered for shadows, a collection of stones from the Temple of Debod are presented alongside images featuring a set of silverware. Both sets are restrained by hands wearing leather gloves, an innocuous yet transgressive filtering system, holding at bay the sacred and the violent, the magical and the menacing. These themes echo abstractly within the art of Joshua Petherick. Working predominantly with sculpture and video, Petherick uses artifice and material manipulation to hint at the recognisable, while removing enough of its traits to leave the feeling of unnameable otherness — a speculative state. Such works as the video-triad Glass Tables IV (Ditch Presences) see the ‘use values’ of materials distorted; a flatbed scanner becomes a deformed secondary lens for the camera to gaze through, engaging with found materials atop the glass screen. Seemingly organic, technological and alien, this layering of objects comes slowly into focus with the passage of the searing mechanical strip light, presenting a procedure we are not meant to see — the scanning, as opposed to the scanned. Justine Varga similarly exposes and transforms seemingly inflexible procedures, often creating photographic works without the aid of the essential mechanism of the camera, exposing film to an intimate exchange with the world and thereby exploiting a filtration system of total removal. Varga’s film encounters long exposures while being smeared and stained by the artist's fingertips and the substances coating them — drawing with light on a light sensitive substrate. Once printed at scale, the artist’s hand (fingertips) is revealed along with its gestures, like Petherick, offering glimpses of the recognisable (revealing) through a shroud of shadows (concealing). These works are minimalist and maximalist, abstract and realist, somewhere between photography and painting.
Artistic duo, nova Milne’s extensive engagement with the moving image has seen them distort time and narrative through restorative and re-animated actions, creating a state of plasticity. Their warping of historical truths to fit new portrayals is perfectly articulated in Jeté (A Study In Choreography / Chronology For Screen), which shows two televised renditions —two years removed — of esteemed ballet dancers Erik Bruhn and Rudolf Nureyev performing Tchaikovsky’s ‘Black Swan’. nova Milne remove the female ballerinas from each performance, facilitating a fracturing and rejoining (filtration system) that leaves only the two males (who were lovers for decades) now digitally choreographed in a “pas de deux” of their own. A kind of corporeal choreography continues within New Zealand photographer Meg Porteous’ self-portraiture, controlling the viewer’s perspective through deliberate selection (filtration) of images of adolescence, private medical documentation, commissioned voyeuristic images and those more obscure, interlaced with reflections and shadows. In Porteous’ work the artist performs for the camera, both master and muse, exploring ways of seeing, representing and capturing the (her) body through a selection of carefully formulated lenses.
This searing light, filtered for shadows draws attention to common dialogues, critiques, considerations and filters shared by this group of exciting practitioners. A number have been outlined, however many more remain occulted. Traversing CCP’s exhibition spaces, the viewer will discover abstraction and figuration represented through the fields of photography and expanded upon with video installations, objects and paintings, together offering a tantalising sample of diverse and distinct filters; those that reveal (light) or conceal (shadow), along with the speculative system, the intangible filter playing with presence and absence — the unnamable otherness.
Curated by Jack Willet