Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lights! Color! Abstraction!

It’s never easy to write about abstract photography – the impact is in the seeing. However, if the response of the viewers who have come into the gallery over the last week is anything to go by, our just opened show of new work by Garry Fabian Miller is having quite an impact. (And it’s up until December 23, so there’s plenty of time to see it.)

GFM (as we’ll refer to him from now on) is another of the artists in the Victoria and Albert’s “Shadow Catchers” show, but he has been a presence on the English art scene for quite a while. Highly intellectual and somewhat reclusive, GFM prefers to work in the relative isolation of his studio near the rocky tors of Dartmoor where his daily walks inform his sequential experiments shining light through various forms and vessels onto to cibachrome paper. Picking up where abstract painters like Albers, Rothko, and Judd left off, GFM is the rare photographer whose abstract work is created rather than observed. Added rather than reduced. Bringing the elements of light and time to photographic paper, GFM’s prints glow and shimmer in a way that only be achieved in the darkroom.

GFM’s earliest work explored the abstract possibilities of landscape in a more traditional way. His minimal sky and seascapes of 1976 in fact pre-date similar work by Hiroshi Sugimoto by several years. Following that, GFM created a beautiful and now very rare botanical series made by shining enlarger light through various translucent plants. From then on, the work became increasingly abstract and exclusively camera-less. But as Martin Barnes, curator of the V&A’s show points out, unlike most photograms, in GFM’s work, no objects touch the paper. It’s only light.

Our exhibition focuses largely on the recently created body of work titled "Year Two". Following the form of a previous body of work titled "Year One", GFM devoted himself to making 12 different monthly series, each exploring how individual elements such as color, edge, and border affect a specific geometric composition. At the end of the year, he selected the ten images from each month that worked best as a complete chapter. Taken as an autonomous body of work, we have not only a highly personal and rigorous exploration of color and shape, but also the thought and association such forms bring forth.

I’ve illustrated this post with installation shots, because in some way, it feels like less of a reduction than a j-peg of an individual piece, and it conveys something of the constant experimentation that is the core of GFM’s work. (But if you must see the individual pieces click here.)


Anonymous said...

More than any other works of art these photos remind me of the works of James Turrell. Turrell explores how light and color alters our perception of the space around the art work. His light "sculptures" have a 3D quality that is similar to GFM's photos. To me abstract photos are the hardest to comprehend because they are so subjective. Nice show.

Tomatoes From Canada said...

These are gorgeous.

Alice Olive said...

I visited this weekend. The two yellow pieces (near the door) are simply beautiful.