Charlotte & Philip Hanes Art Gallery
April 18 – May 20, 2019
Obscura is an exhibition of digital photographs taken in various urban spaces, as an exploration of the interplay between light, shadow, color, and texture. The shadow-like figure traverses these spaces and becomes interwoven with features of the scene, drawing attention to the relationship between the figure and depicted space. Light and shadow create a tension between architecture and figure, as the figure casts its shadow upon the architecture, and through its presence disrupts the space. These photographs are performed, composed, and shot in daylight, contrasting the darkness of the shadow-figure with the spectrum of bright yet muted colors of the urban and industrial spaces.
In his essay on Japanese aesthetics, Tanizaki Jun’ichirō makes a case for the traditional Eastern preference for the soft depth and subtlety of shadows over the harsh brightness of direct light. I drew from this essay, In Praise of Shadows, in photographing for this exhibition, and considered how a human form can appear as a shadow and what it would mean for such a shadow to “exist.”
Tanizaki’s essay also refers to the aesthetics of Wabi-sabi, developed during the Medieval period of Japan under the influence of Zen Buddhism, wherein nothing is meant to last, and beauty is found in fleeting moments. I found that subconscious, inspiration for aspects of my images was drawn from such features of Wabi-sabi; muted colors and understatement, and an affinity for shadows and supposed “imperfections,” versus the overly bright and extravagant.
A shadow is evidence of a presence. It is a space not entirely without light, but within which we are less able to discern some features. We are left primarily with a shape, or a silhouette. My intention in composing these images – with the figure acting as a traveling shadow – is to create a presence for this shadow-figure, to assert its presence as something of equal importance to the more chromatic elements of the images. A shadow does not simply blend into its surroundings, but rather it interacts with the space.
The photograph, Untitled (orange door) received a 2019 Wake Forest University Student Art Purchase Award.