From Walter Benjamin (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, 1936) to Roland Barthes (Camera Lucida, 1980), the 20th century has mostly taken photography as a multipliable art form. « What the photograph reproduces to infinity has occurred only once. » wrote Roland Barthes. In this exhibition, two artists, Zane Mellupe and Paulina Surys, take a different stance towards photography as a unique art piece. Photography here frees itself from the two-dimensional medium, exploring both new artistic fields and technical supports, becoming thus a physical object, a unique creation. We rediscover the emotion contained in that instant through a no longer reproductable picture, since its reality has already been altered by the artist’s own hand.
Studying photography since the age of 14, in Riga, London and Shanghai, Zane Mellupe conceives her artistic works as a way of « thinking in images ». Her installations, or multi-medium photographic works, centre around the hidden interpretations of our emotions. She employs the photographic medium as a tool that inspires her creative process. As such, her installations are often composed of everyday objects with an added photographic element, the collision of two universes from which arise new meanings. Zane Mellupe takes to an extreme the language of objects and photography, bringing together different materials, employing innovative techniques of printing on metal, wood, material, or even intervening manually on the negatives. Her artistic approach could be considered a return through sensuality to the original meaning of photography, that of capturing sensations of reality.
A recurrent element in the work of the artist, the photographed body, becomes an object itself. It is often presented naked, in foetal position, curled up, closed off and solitary. In « Functions or speaking in the terms of tools », the naked body of a woman is printed on the interior of a carpenter’s toolbox. The object becomes the visual metaphor of different roles and uses of the feminine body. The photography of Zane Mellupe cannot be read in isolation from their integrated object, giving a poetic narrative of thei history. The work of Zane Mellupe, in all its variations, consists in a questioning of photography, treating the image as an object, and at the same time multiplying the suggestions power of the image.
Paulina Surys studied at the National Art Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw (Poland) before her studies in photography in London. Her approach to photography is inspired in classic visual references while employing a singular and modern method. She uses entirely argentic photography, not only for its aesthetic value but also for the magic of the chemical reaction, fixing objects and people to a unique result, unlike in digital photography. The traditional process of photographic development cannot be dissociated from the work of the artist, it is the motor of his artistic creation. Printing in black and white is a basis allowing an ulterior intervention of colour, collage, embroidery or other materials. Influenced by surrealism, the creative act must, through photography, proceed from an instinctive state arising from the depths of the subconscious. Paulina Surys uses in a particular way Baryta matte paper, which was used in the 19th century for portraits, by Nadar among others. Her photographs, embellished with the stroke of her paintbrush, create an experimental universe inspired by Georges Bataille evoking eroticism, narcissism, death, manipulation, beauty and love. They become timeless photographic objects.
The artist uses also the Polaroid, another approach to point out the unique photographic work. Invented in 1948, this instant film allows for errors, imperfections; it can only be produced once. Paulina Surys creates using this technique spontaneous clichés, repainted, pasted or even stitched to create unique photographic objects. This appears in her series « Notes of Blindness », in which she seeks to transcribe a seemingly imperceptible truth through piercing her clichés with threads that penetrate the body. The resulting work affirms itself, sensual, provocative and surrealist.