For ages artists are trying to arrest motion, capture the essence of it with due regard to the limitations of their tools at hand. It did receive further impetus with the introduction of photography. Even the very first generation of photographers like Étienne-Jules Marey’s (March 5, 1830 – May 21, 1904), Ottomar Anschütz (May 16, 1846 in Lissa – May 30, 1907), Eadweard Muybridge (April 9, 1830 – May 9, 1904) and Felix Nadar (April 6, 1820 – March 23, 1910) indulged in such passions in their own peculiar ways, often producing some very striking results. This was done even before filmmaking has begun. So far, in this regard, Stephanie Jung followed the footsteps of such illustrious names who went ahead of her. However, in doing so she did not fail to add her own deft touch. In urban landscapes of Berlin and Japan she found stories worth narrating and narrating in her own unique way.
Like any other art form, photography too has evolved in the past two years or so. Relentless experiments with this medium ensured that it ceases to be solely a tool for capturing realistic family portraits and develops into an art form in its own right. Experimental photographs are considered an objet d’art and artists like Michael Wesely find their long exposure images in the prized possession of MoMA. So for the young photographers like Stephanie Jung the key lies in stretching the limits, finding new vistas and exploring those to the fullest, both within and without. So far she used her talent effectively, capturing vivid imageries from life’s various chapters which bodes well for herself but even more importantly for her art. It is important to remember here what Felix Nadar said while summing up his thoughts about the art of photography,
According to Balzac’s theory, all physical bodies are made up entirely of layers of ghostlike images, an infinite number of leaflike skins laid on top of one another. Since Balzac believed man was incapable of making something material from an apparition – that is, creating something from nothing – he concluded that every time someone had his photograph taken, one of the spectral layers was removed from the body and transferred to the photograph. Repeated exposures entailed the unavoidable loss of subsequent ghostly layers, that is, the very essence of life.
When a series of Sharon Moody’s artworks were exhibited earlier this year it earned critical acclaim, but not without creating quite a bit of clamour, ironically for the same reason. The series was dedicated to the Classic Comic Books and their rolled, folded and yellowed pages. The work was too perfect to have gone unnoticed. For the same reason, it reignited an old controversy about the ethos of such photorealistic depiction of comic books with their original characters and storylines without an explicit mentioning of the names of the comic artists. Experienced connoisseurs of art may have had a feeling of déjà vu here. Years ago none other than Roy Lichtenstein found himself confronting such questions when he exhibited Whaam! in 1963. Interestingly, many of today’s critics like comparing Sharon Moody’s art to that of Lichtenstein’s, notwithstanding the fact that the latter was a representative of pop art done at a different time and place.
Sharon Moody was born in Florida, but spent much of her time in North Carolina until she completed her BFA from Appalachian State University, Boone, NC in 1973. The ensuing years were marked by her continued explorations in the world of art, further studies, including an MFA degree from George Washington University, Washington DC, and being a teacher and mentor to young talents. In between, she developed a rich body of work that is permeated by the colours of her own thoughts and sensibilities. She is a great admirer of William Harnett and John F Peto’s paintings, artists who kindled the passions for trompe l’œil on the other side of the Atlantic. Her own handling of optical illusion on canvas could be considered an homage to these two great artists. It is her ingenuity that leads her to imbibe the essence of photorealism in the Classic Comic Books without diluting the veritable charm of trompe l’œil. The former assists her to capture the exceptionally minute details of a chocolate bar, a pair of tennis racquets or a one dollar bill while the latter induces the viewer into a forced perspective on a two dimensional plain. It might be true that ‘reality’ is nothing but a ‘persistent illusion’, but in this case the illusion turns out to be a rather gratifying one.
Laura Barisonzi prefers capturing images of her subjects in natural surroundings instead of depending on the tried and tested ambience of the studios. The NYC photographer also likes showcasing people in action. Since she often works with sportspersons, fitness fanatics and dancers, particularly for her commercial assignments, this aspect of her visual narratives thrives on an added dimension. The photographs, exuding a youthful verve, appeal to the senses of the audience. However, as an artist she does not want any stereotypes. So every now and then, camera in hand, Laura embarks on a trip to gratify her inner creative. Her restless eyes keep searching for ‘stories’ in the obscure shades and corners of New York and beyond, before she finalises on the latest topic for her explorations.
In challenging herself Laura finds great satisfaction, for only by doing so she manages capturing such evocative images that otherwise would have been beyond her. Her dedication towards her craft also forces her to stay super–fit as she needs spending long hours under the sun. An outdoor–oriented person and admirer of many sporting activities, this aspect of her work too does not bother her unduly. Many years ago Paul Cézanne said, ‘Right now a moment is fleeting by! Capture its reality in paint! To do that we must put all else out of our minds. We must become that moment, make ourselves a sensitive recording plate. Give the image of what we actually see, forgetting everything that has been seen before our time.’ This holds true for the making of any visual representation, painting, sculpture or photography, for artists before and after Cézanne, including, such talents as Laura Barisonzi.
Brad Spencer is a forerunner among the artists who explored the potential of creating brick sculptures in recent times. In fact he dedicated three decades of his life in perfecting his skills at this not–so–usual–art form. Due to the nature of the work, brick sculptures are particularly suited for public art projects. Many prominent landmarks of Reidsville, North Carolina, where the artist lives, and beyond are now adorned with Brad’s sculptural essays. The visual lyricism of his art is self evident.
Creating exquisite pieces of sculptures, including bas reliefs, of bricks is actually an age old process with an illustrious history dating back to 575 BC. The Ishtar Gate, reconstructed and preserved, is a proud possession of Pergamon Museum, Berlin. But many who visit the museum to observe this architectural marvel do not seem to recognise the fact that this monument, dedicated to goddess Ishtar, is made entirely of bricks. Numerous rows of golden lions, dragons, aurochs and floral motifs studding the gate are nothing but carved bricks sculpted out of the blocks of clay glazed in an ethereally azure tone. Babylonians were responsible for elevating brick sculptures to an art form. Artists and craftsmen of Babylon must have captivated Ishtar, the deity of love in Sumer and Babylon, with such an offering. Brick sculpture did not enjoy such exalted status after Babylon suffered cruel blows into the hands of time.
Connor Stefanison was born on May 31, 1991 in Burnaby, Canada. He was introduced to the world of photography while indulging his other passion, mountain biking. Since then Connor devoted ample time to better understand the nuances of the craft. And when, less than a year ago, he became the first Canadian to receive the prestigious Eric Hosking Portfolio Award, presented to him in London, he knew he is on the right track. The honour not only granted him instant international recognition but also provided him with motivation to broaden his horizon even further.
Being a student of Zoological Sciences, Connor Stefanison’s deeper understanding of the wildlife seems to positively affect his capability as a photographer. This in turn is reflected on the images captured by him of birds and other animals in their natural habitat, such as the baby American dippers screaming for food or a solitary Agalychnis callidryas peeping from behind two slender branches of a tree.
The scenic landscapes closer home or in other parts of North America do not escape Connor’s keen eyes either. Using his enthusiastic mind and roving camera lenses he keeps on registering the lavish flower bed in Mount Revelstoke National Park, the threadlike streams of Fern Falls or the frozen tunnel in Summer Melt on photographic plates — the ever changing grand canvas of nature fresh and fragrant at one point, eerie silent the next.
Legendary artist Paul Gauguin said, Nature has mysterious infinities and imaginative power. It is always varying the productions it offers to us. The artist himself is one of nature’s means. Even considering all his accomplishments Connor Stefanison’s career as a visual artist has only begun. It will be of infinite interest for all the aficionados of photography to follow his development as a visual storyteller closely and find out for themselves if he has done justice to his natural talent. Encouragingly for him, he will always find inexhaustible sources of inspiration in nature that will never fail him if he continues remaining truthful to it.