An Essay by Frédéric Caillard, April 2017
Everyday Abstraction: Images at Work provides an interesting insight into how different concepts of motion can fuel today’s abstraction.
The word abstract come from the latin words ab, which means out of, and traho, which means to remove. Literally, something abstract is something that has been extracted, pulled out of reality. It can be a color, a shape, a sound or any other element or combination of elements that can be isolated from reality. An abstract work is the result of this extraction process. In Everyday abstraction: Images at Work, Scott Hammen and Hannah Whitaker provide, each one with their own media and unique technique, striking examples of what this « literal » definition of abstraction can be : a body part becomes a component of a visual composition in Hannah Whitaker Stride 1, a stone wall loses its practical attributes to acquire an aesthetic dimension in Scott Hammen’s Place Mattes.
In these examples, the link between reality and abstraction is mostly static, and the abstract work can be considered as a frozen, inert or petrified derivative of reality, even in the case of Hammen’s moving images.
Other artists, such as Patrick Bergeron, are more interested in the actual “process” of extraction than in its result. In Night Waves, Bergeron uses the movement of his camera to convert reality into abstraction. He films Asian cities at night, recording the traces of city lights that result from different camera movements, rejuvenating Jackson Pollock’s action painting into action filming. Thomas-Tronel Gauthier has a similar approach with Tahiti-Moorea, the speed of his boat remodeling the light reflection over the ocean’s surface into sparkling abstract sequences.
Thomas Tronel-Gauthier, Tahiti-Moorea, 2012 / video HD / 2’00 loop. © Thomas Tronel-Gauthier, Courtesy Thomas Tronel-Gauthier and 22,48m2.
Jacques Perconte also uses speed in Après le feu (”After the fire”), but in a different fashion. Abstraction is not generated by the velocity, but in the velocity of the image. Speed typically multiplies the amount of reality that one can see in a given time, and it expands one’s angles and perspectives on reality. It thus increases the density of reality, which becomes more complex to perceive because of the saturation of one’s senses. In Après le feu, Perconte films railroad tracks and their surrounding forest from a train that passes through mountains in Corsica. After a few minutes, he gradually migrates his images into some coarse and colorful bursts of abstraction, proposing an engaging solution to the saturation of the senses induced by speed. Reality is refined and simplified into an abstract substance – a sort of sublimated state of reality, in this case reminiscences of the fire flare and of the magnificence of the area before the disaster – that is easier to grasp for the viewer.
In Dennis Loesch’s Memory sticks series, works are composed of evenly spaced aluminium rods on which one or several images are printed. When looking at the works, one’s eyes alternate between the image slices and gaps where the white wall is visible. Like in movies that only capture 24 frames per second, Loesch leaves part of the original image out of the spectator vision, creating a loss of perception that is not so much related to physical speed (most of the images are perfectly still pictures with no movement) but that rather materializes the general acceleration of image consumption in the digital era. The Memory sticks also formally convey the predominance of digital images over real-life in our contemporary culture, the image slices being much more intense than their intertwined segments of reality that have nothing more to provide than an empty and meaningless space.
Main illustration picture : Patrick Bergeron, Night Waves, 2015 / video / color / w. sound / 3'42. Courtesy Light Cone.