Aperture 2008 | Fried Contemporary Pretoria
Aperture, Fried Contemporary, July 2008.
Continuing my exploration of family snapshots of a specific era, the paintings are based on photographs taken in the Kruger National Park during the late 1950s. Reproduced and enlarged in oil on canvas, the peculiarities of small faded snapshots are emphasized and enhanced. As snapshots, the images are indistinguishable from thousands of others; as paintings, they possess a particular affective quality which retains our gaze.
The gaze in the photographs registers the obsession, since the inception of photography, to document and provide evidence of visual experiences, in this instance of animals, the landscape and the rest camps of the Kruger National Park. The snapshots signify the quest for mythical ‘nature’ which is authentic and untouched, yet navigable and harmless. The paintings are firstly reproductions of that initial gaze and secondly they document the drive to record shared and stored memories. Sight is mediated through the aperture of the camera, but also through the car window - the car acting as facilitator which places the animals and the landscape both within and beyond reach. The subject is undermined in that the intervention of the camera and the car is made clear, subverting both wildlife painting and photography in its usual descriptive attention to detail, and in its efforts to capture the animal in a pristine, untarnished environment.
The paintings reference not only the photographed image but also the vagueness and temporality of memory, acting as reminders of a past which simultaneously appears and disappears. Instead of creating the illusion that what is represented is within our reach it is set at a double remove, the blur of time inscribed both in the photographs and in its reappearance in oils. The work of mourning is double – not only due to faded memories that cannot be returned, but also due to the loss of substance of the failed shot which denounces the visibility of the world promised by the photograph and reveals the inability of the snapshot to convey anything but blurred fragments of a particular narrative. Painting reasserts this presence. It leaves a trace of a kind that the photograph cannot, it jolts us with remembered history.
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