Levels is a photograph and photogram double triptych of stairs hanging in a sandwich of Perspex. These stairs are either made or found by Abraham, exploring the everyday in the conversation between photographic and sculptural techniques. Both triptychs’ use repetition in their formal structure, physically playing with the interpretation that is available to the viewer. This occurs due to the subject matter and develops the comparison of photograph A to photogram B. There is a focus on materiality, and the stripping of one material to make way for the other, taking you further into the conversation between photographic and sculptural techniques, and where the line is drawn between the two.
The theory behind this work comes from manipulation of space and material. Richard Galpin stripped the silver layer off scaffolding photographs to reveal fragmented forms in spatial compositions, transforming pieces into futuristic spaces through linear regularity paired with a geometric swarm. Abrahams’ work takes this into account, but instead removes the subject of the staircase, replacing it in another form. Using wire and natural light, the photograph and the missing subject become a sculpture, conversing with the physical, sculptural staircases that are depicted within the image. One could repeat the circle between sculpture and photography, for the way we think is not linear, but rather a story connecting the elements.
Abraham was specifically interested in the reality of images, with the progression of subtlety using an every-day item. Thomas Demand bought forward a different perspective of his miniature sculptural rooms through photography. Without the sculpture, there is a warped view of reality through the evidence of photography, ‘becoming a reality for its own sake’. Abraham bought this into her own work, displaying no context to size or material, but rather the product of photographic medium. The transfiguration philosophy of sculpture into a photograph and into a separate sculpture comes from Walter Benjamin. He describes that through photography, humanity can see the beauty of the subject, no matter how ordinary. Subtlety is found within the subject and the display of Abrahams’ work, depicting her ideas within the conversational double photographic triptych.
The choice of images was a difficult decision for Abraham, determining only those that would portray the light between photograph and sculpture and questioning where the line is drawn between the two. With a wide selection of photographic techniques and experiments, there was a temptation to create a new reality with them all, but simplicity was the key. Both photography and sculpture retain one instant, drawing upon a momentary process of a story between elements. The echoing similarity between staircases and triptychs bring together this story, blurring the line between sculpture and photography and ultimately asking whether there should be a line in the first place. Within future experimentation, Abraham wishes to look at the impact of size on this conversation, playing further with both light and reality. Abraham considers her own boundaries and relationship with mediums using the final material that illuminates the sculpture-photography conversation; light.
There was some hassle with the final piece as the Perspex that originally arrived had four holes (one in each corner), and not the desired two, and I had only received 11 out of the 12. Finding a spare piece of Perspex in the workshop, I was able to cut this down and screw holes myself, creating the necessary number of pieces to create the sandwich effect. The next confusion was over gluing these together as I did not realise you had to squeeze the pieces of Perspex together as you brushed the glue between the seal. Once I realised that this needed to be done, I was able to quickly and efficiently glue all the pieces together in their pairs, ready for hanging.
I hung the Perspex sandwiches with 1.5mm corded wire, replacing the parts of the photograph that had been cut out with a physical substance. With the four holes, I had thought about using the wire to reach the floor, as this is not an abnormal hanging technique, however I quickly ran out of time while hanging. The final display was then two wires hanging from beams to the Perspex triptychs holding the photographs and photograms.
The final outcome of Levels is one that I thought I would not get to due to previous hassles in this project. I found that the piece had more impact than first anticipated through drawings and planning, and the spare piece of Perspex that I had cut and screwed myself was not obviously visible. I am proud of how the piece came out because the display was unique to the piece, and aided itself well to the conversation between photography and sculpture. If I were to do the piece again, I would not leave it so late to plan the display, allowing extra time for deliveries and mishaps before the deadline, however I would hang it in the same way due to the impact that the natural light has to the piece, adding itself to the conversation between sculpture and photography.
Between the Week 8 Exhibition and the Final Exhibition, my ideas and practice further changed to include more experimentation with light within the mediums of photography and sculpture. Through the use of new matchstick designs, I continued to play with the aspect of reality, but I felt as though I wanted photography to play a larger part of the project. This is where the play with light, that was initially introduced in the Week 8 Exhibition, was highlighted through the use of photograms, photographs and cyanotypes. These photographic processes manipulated light in its raw form to create different realities on paper. Each of these also use light in a different way, playing with the manipulation of an added medium. Here, I looked into the Paradox of Photography in which ‘to insist on the materiality of the print would be to undermine its founding attribute, that of illusion’, so I ensured that I addressed the reader with a continued reference to light and sculpture, rather than photography. Taking it one step further and using inspiration from Richard Galpin, I stripped the photographic layer from the photographs that I had produced of stairs around the University of Reading. Removing this layer I ‘volatilised the real‘ and made the subject and reality difficult to determine. By removing this layer I have also inverted the conversation previously held and created a sculpture from the photograph, bringing together the conversation between sculpture, photography and light and determining where the line was between them. I wanted to ultimately display more within the final exhibition, but after a lengthy discussion I decided against this and drawn in the simplicity element that worked the best throughout the previous works. This investigation of the conversation between sculpture, photography and light was also aided through the glass workshop and my final display designs with photographs within perspex and hung by wire.
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