BANGALORE: Francis Bacon, a notable painter, once said the reality of photography is stronger than reality itself. Delving into various dimensions and science of visual imagery; photography has continued to evolve over the years. As a matter of fact, contemporary photography stemmed from the necessity of expressing emotions in an artistic fashion without losing the essence of reality. Chinese Photography Now held by Glenfiddich and Tasveer Art Gallery recently showcased works of Chu Chu, Liu Yue, Luo Yongjin, Ma Kang, Yang Yongliang and Yan Xinfa. Experimenting with the dynamics of massive cultural, political and economic changes in one of the oldest civilisations; these artists demonstrate the maturity of contemporary photography with ease. However, the exploration of these paradigm shifts is more explicit in the works of Luo Yongjin, Ma Kang and Yang Yongliang. Nathaniel (official spokesperson for the photographers) tells us more.
How would you define contemporary
Whereas the term ‘contemporary photography’ can be applied to photographs which are currently being produced, it more correctly refers to a stylistic or conceptual approach to the medium. This can be seen as a departure from both modernist and photojournalistic genres which were dominant in the twentieth century. ‘Contemporary Photography’ loosely suggests a greater concern with artistic and idea-based practices, and fits within the bracket of contemporary art as a whole.
How difficult is it to conceptualise and capture surrealism in photography?
Surrealism in its true sense was an artistic movement which emerged from Paris in the 20s. The aim of Surrealism was to reveal the unconscious and reconcile it with rational life. In this sense, the subject of Surrealism is an interesting one when thinking about photography, which purports to objectively capturing what is in front of the lens. However, photographers have always managed to communicate surrealist tendencies through creatively altering the image, and transforming what we see away from its reality. In the Chinese Photography Now show, many of the photographers have created work which detracts from reality but it would be wrong to call this surrealist — their concerns are socio-political not the unconscious.
As a photographer, how do you strive to capture beauty in inert or mechanical subjects?
Photography often makes us see something in a new way. It has the ability to reveal beauty in something via a process of translation from three-dimensions to two dimensions. For example, in Chu Chu’s work, who photographs everyday tools, (such as a broom or a hammer), she prints these objects much larger than they exist in reality. She also works in monochrome, which forces us to concentrate on the objects’ forms and textures, rather than their more mundane functions.
How do you define
In art history, ‘Realism’ refers to a movement in France in the 1840s which sought to present life in all its grittiness, choosing to focus on peasant and working-class subject matter. However, the term has more commonly been used as a general word to define art which tries to deal with the world as it is, in an objective and truthful manner.
Between minimalism and flamboyance what do you prefer?
Both have an important role to play. It really depends on which approach best suits the subject matter in hand and most clearly communicates the artist’s ideas. For example, Chu Chu’s ‘minimalist’ tools series is successful because it focuses our attention on the simplicity of objects. In contrast, Yang Yongliang’s explosive and flamboyant style fits with his subject matter, which tries to convey the issues of frenetic urbanism in the twenty first century.
How do you capture life in still images?
An image is never singular, or still. They are full of symbols, signs and devices which refer out beyond their inanimate surfaces.
Do you think art instills a sense of hope in mankind?
Art can convey positive and inspiring messages but it also has a much more important role to play in reflecting on the world as it is, not just how we desire it to be. The work in this exhibition is not meant to instill hope, but rather to comment on the contemporary condition.
What is the relevance of art in our society today?
Art can reveal a truth which is not so easily conveyed through language. However, it would be wrong to say that all art is trying to deal with the truth. In the context of this exhibition, whilst each photographer is trying to deal with real-world issues, we should remember that photography is still a deceptively subjective medium.
Chinese Photography Now has been put together in collaboration with OFOTO Gallery in Shanghai. The works will be on display at Tasveer Art Gallery till January 4.