Playing in The Shadows

©2009 Phillip Nesmith - 19x18 dry plate ambrotype

©2009 Phillip Nesmith - 19x18" dry plate ambrotype

Over the past eight months I have been working on a collection of dry plate images to be shown in my second solo show at Irvine Contemporary in Washington D.C.  These months have been torturous for many reasons in addition to my often scattered and stressful method of creating.  My work is often is the collective result of the process of creation, one piece informing the next, one unforeseen result informing the next, one bad idea leading to the next good one.  This happens on and on until the body of work has made itself and in the end tells ME when it is done, not the other way around.  Very little is mapped out prior to commencing work.

For this body of work I wanted to explore many things, most of which I am not yet ready to write about, at least not until I have had a chance to think about my official statement for the show.  The one thing that I will say is that I wanted to create all of the images without the use of camera.  Direct positive photograms on black glass of various sizes and orientations, which in the end became be as large as 48” diptychs and 24” single plate images. The largest plates I have ever made.

Since the 1830s photograms have been used to record scientific specimens such as the work of Anna Atkins as well as artisticideas by the likes of Man Ray and more recently Adam Fuss.  I wanted to focus on the lost wonder of the natural world that we once had, but produce images that were each an individual story yet connected to each other and related to something of the current world condition.  Historically the photogram has been not used for a narrative purpose and this is one of the areas I have been exploring during this process.  Photograms are often easy to look at because of their simplistic graphic qualities that some call decorative.  This trait camouflages many of the ideas each of my plates contain.  I really enjoy this about the choice to make photograms for this project, it is almost a test or sorts.  Technically I am just capturing the shadows of objects that are in contact with the plate, which is symbolically important to what I am trying to do, but also presents a great creative challenge, one that at times has been very exciting and at others very frustrating and limiting.

I think that the work is coming to an end, although there are a few more plates that may find their way into reality.  With the final few plates comes the next stage of the process, which will be to get everything scanned for my archives, then to finishing with varnish and framing.  I am not looking forward to the varnish process as it is possible to lose work that cannot be replaced.  This is something that happened while getting things ready for the Aspect: Ratio 2 show back in January.  Needless to say I am really nervous about moving into the finishing stage, but I am feeling the need to wrap things up.  New projects await!

This new work will be on view at Irvine Contemporary in Washington D.C. starting October 31, 2009.  For details please contact the gallery at the link above.


~ by Phil Nesmith on August 16, 2009.

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