Photography as a technical instrument for depicting what one presumes to be reality draws on various form languages ranging from true-to-reality portrayal to functional reduction to manipulation of the portrayed subject. As a product emerging from the modernist movement, photography takes the history of abstraction in painting a step further by experimenting with exposure processes. In the 1920s a passion for working with light and exposure processes led artists such as László Moholy Nagy or Man Ray to consider their “Rayograms” as a kind of painting using light and chemicals, relinquishing the possibilities offered by the camera. Placing objects directly onto photographic paper and exposing them to light enabled the creation of unique images. In this method, the process of exposure can be considered equal to a painting performance, thus highlighting the originality of the work of art, contrary to Benjamin’s reflections on photography. Although the techniques used to produce Rayograms – or for that matter photographs – were initially not considered as art, decades later there is no doubt about their merit.
Works by four artists exhibited in the Krobath Gallery prove that the abstraction processes of photographic techniques from the modernist movement are still of great interest for artistic positions today. Here, too, painting is considered in a wider sense, particularly in the works of Otto Zitko and Esther Stocker. Both artists are primarily painters: working with photography serves as a continuous moment of contemplation. For his “spirograms” Otto Zitko uses spirometers, a medical apparatus for measuring the capacity of the lungs. The recorded movements caused by inhaling and exhaling correlate with Zitko’s graphic approach and reproduce the breathing movements of the artist as a photographic reality on wood or glass. The artist thus focuses on the technical nature of images that are based on actual processes. Esther Stocker uses the dispositif of photography to transfer the modernist form language of her paintings directly onto paper. The strict grids of Stocker’s painting have been dissolved here: she takes photographs of folded paper formats, thus inducing three-dimensionality that is then illustrated on a photographic surface.
Běla Kolářová and Maria Hahnenkamp rank among those artists who explicitly deal with photography in their works. Kolářová hails from the 1960s generation of Czech concept artists. From the outset, she refused to use photography as a means of reproducing reality, since she did not believe it could duly mirror the world. She thus followed Moholy Nagy and Man Ray’s lead and depicted objects by exposing them directly on photographic paper, without using a camera. This allowed her to appropriate the world in line with her own artistic views.
Maria Hahnenkamp’s approach is photographic reproduction, yet by skilfully using flash on a transparent surface she obtains an abstract effect caused by multiple light irradiations. She thus reconnects the exclusive use of light with abstract and photographic approaches.
Walter Seidl / Mandana Taban (translation)