Works in this exhibition
Tooth and Nail
Tooth and Nail
In November at The DAM Gallery, on display will be works by photographers: Harry Skeggs, Hans Withoos, Miss Aniela, Alice Zilberberg and Olga Kulakova in a group exhibition entitled: Le composé, le raffiné, rencontre le sauvage exploring photographic compositions ranging from fashion and still life to vast savannas capturing natural settings, composed interiors where nature and beauty meet as well as wild animals and their environment. Behind the lens of all the photographers is the search for beauty and keeping John Keats in mind “Beauty is Truth...Truth Beauty, - that is all/ ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,” the desire for beauty is not just for esthetics but also a search for truth - the essence of truth, the ontology of the object in the camera’s focus. Also integral to the compositions is how we look, what we look at and what it all means. Joshua C Taylor states: “Much of history of art is concerned with the re-clarification of subject matter that has become obscure with time. But such an understanding remains only one ingredient; it is not sufficient in itself to characterize the particular quality of a work of art... Clearly there are other forces in action, affecting our experience and contributing to the specific meaning of the work.” Those experiences can be simply defined as culture, memory and history - in each of the artworks presented - the viewer will see the response of the artist not only to the vignette, but to Time, and a likely desire to return to a time where elegance held a paramount position in culture.
British photographer, Harry Skeggs, with patience and respect travels through the terrains of the world seeking moments where his majestic and proud subjects allow him access to their world. Often following herds, and lone hunters, Harry pays homage to these animals and landscapes by not infringing on their space, not threatening for the “A” shot, but instead allows them to continue in their life, to maintain their own majesty, one that he is allowed to capture through his lens, and his patience, clearly seen in, for example, Mara Magic, where Skeggs walks off into the proverbial sunset with with is subjects. In so doing Harry Skeggs argues that the gimmicks, traps, and tricks, too often employed in wildlife photography are both not necessary but also disruptive and ultimately harmful to the wildlife - to the true condition of life - to freedom. Drawing from a culture of respect, Harry, alone in the landscape, with his camera and guide, in effect introduce themselves to the natural world they encounter, delicately announcing their presence, gaining acceptance by the awareness of the animals encountered often through eye contact, creating a simpatico relationship of the moment, one that results in the truth and beauty of the world he seeks and unearths.
Dutch photographer Hans Withoos, embracing compositions of 16th and 17th Century Netherlandish art creates scenes and scenarios paying homage to this established school of art. A directed descendent of 16th century artist Matthias Withoos, Hans in his Withoos Meets Withoos, re-interprets many of the traditions of Dutch art found in the oeuvre of his ancestor. Evident in Hans’ compositions are elements of the Vanitas Motif, where there is a reliance on both beauty, but often set against the fragility of the subject, but also the fragility of life - thereby a reflection on the human condition, the fragility of the environment and also a suggestion of The Great Chain of Being. Interestingly there is an absence of a higher power suggesting a reliance on the mortal realm, but one that is often in a state of peril. Take for example the work: Broken Wing, presenting a solitary male figure composed in a stark landscape, grasping a branch, as he is caught between the two conditions of ascent and descent. It can be argued that WIthoos is blatantly aware of the limits afforded humankind and instead of mourning those limits he creates scenarios that pay not only respect and acknowledgment to the limits, but also argues that even in a condition of limitation, the thing that alleviates that burden is the search and focus on what is beautiful - that beauty is everywhere, not only in the composition, but also in the objects complied to make the composition. Hans Withoos is also asking the viewer to erase cultural markers and definitions and look at the essence of things, the ontology of things and stating within all elements, and objects, once these markers and definitions are removed - what remains is beauty - Keats’ beauty - Keats’ truth.
British photographer Miss Aniela creates stories in the compositions presented often looking back to the Rococo. The goal of the Rococo was to present and create a softer world than that of Louis XIV and his reliance on The Baroque, removing a garish tradition with a softer, more intimate world. This intimate world is found in all of Miss Aniela’s compositions, but added to this intimate story is the inclusions of animals, often taken out of their habitat and invited into the rooms presented. Suggesting that the woman, like the animal is often placed in an environment not her own. Miss Aniela’s compositions are complex and layered with symbols, meaning and directions of focus. In Ragged Rococo, for instance, on the surface the viewer is presented with a composition of a beautiful woman, her dog, a candle, a chair and an umbrella - yet both the dog and the woman do not interact with the viewer as they both look away. Yet within this composition, the viewer is treated to an intimate example of the woman as object, defined by her appearance, her status as a woman, but what the viewer must take into consideration is that it is her status, and beauty that endanger her, which is reinforced by the burnt down candle and the umbrella, suggesting that Time is the enemy here, as with Time comes change; it is also the viewer that places her vicariously in the role as an object with limits of time. For Miss Aniela, an attention to beauty unleashes the isolated woman, reminiscent of Byron’s “Manfred” battling time, society and creativity. Miss Aniela always presents a strong woman, but burdened, somewhat caged, but one that through defiance will allow the viewer to see her, but will not, and no one can make her, interact with the viewer. The true beauty of the works lies not only on the surface, but within the layers, the lines, the curves, all purely feminine, all willing to tolerate access, yet retain autonomy.
Alice Zilberberg, in her meditative compositions explores beauty in the condition of thought, and how thought and ultimately imagination can create a more expressive reality. Zilberberg achieves this through time and dedication from seeking images to take, and images to create. Often her meditative animals, for example Be There Bison, are found in traditional and expected locations, her removal of them from said locations, opens a one on one dialog between the subject and the artist. This one on one conversation leads her to find new ‘homes’ for the animals from the landscapes from her travels - by taking an animal out of one environment and placing it in what she feels is a more appropriate space, one that frees the subject, and the viewer from any and all earthly concerns and restraints, Zilberberg is able to define and create what she sees as a more beautiful, more true representation not only of her subject and its environment, but also afford the viewer a personal, serene and intimate experience with the subject.
Olga Kulakova with her work Ducks of Winter Haven: Family of Three, also explores what is beautiful in this composition where she seeks to highlight that among many of the trappings of modern life, there remains a constant - and the constant is the beauty found in an undisturbed natural world, even if that world must squeeze in somehow between modern life and instinct. Through this image Kulakova exposes that no matter how civilization expands, develops, we are not alone and it can be argued that this image, its subject are what reminds that beauty and its accompanying truth are everywhere, all one must do is seek, be patient - that the incessant truth of beauty is found on this foggy morning through the undisturbed moment of the nature of nature and of natural instinct.
The artists, on the surface, may seem disconnected, but upon further exploration, one sees the commonality of theme that they share: what is beauty, the truth of beauty. They share the desire to present and compose realities, both actual and orchestrated where the viewer can experience a moment, requiring the viewer to enter the composition and experience what is presented and to look beyond and under the surface to reveal all that is integral - that being the ontological truth and beauty within each work, which once unearthed will truly be “all ye will ever need.”
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