Q. Your work is based in photography, but your images often depict other mediums such as painting and drawing. What interests you about the photographic process over other artistic methods?
A. Photography has historically been understood as the most objective tool of representation. With this in mind, my artistic approach addresses the primary historical role of the medium: the dethronement of painting’s representational abilities. Additionally, my work deals with photography’s own loss of authority in the digital era, where objectivity is not necessarily ensured. In this way, my projects present a double negation between mediums – the negation of photography by painting, and the negation of painting by photography.
Q. What do you think your use of the photographic medium brings to your work, and why do you continue to use it?
A. I have always been fascinated by photography and have been taking pictures since I was 12 years old, but I think contemporary photography is quite slippery in its definition and boundaries. My practice responds to this ambiguity, and my photographs bounce back and forth between different mediums. They are photographs that attempt to be something they are not. They confuse the viewer, and often require other senses beyond vision to be fully understood as photography. I like referring to them as ‘hybrids’.
Q. Tell us about your newest series LEAD. What materials were used, and what is the intent of the project?
A. LEAD is a four-year project made in collaboration with conservation and collections departments at the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London. It consists of x-ray and ultraviolet scans of old master paintings, including works by Uccello, van Dyck, Rubens, Delacroix, Goya and Velazquez. The title of the series refers to the presence of lead in paint made during the 17th and 18th centuries, and my final images reveal the reflection of the lead pigments during scanning. The images work to transform the paintings from recognisable works into otherworldly scenes, as if the viewer is provided access to a separate reality just below the surface of the paint. By using a scientific process to demystify the paintings, I make them even more unrecognisable, blurring the divisions between science and art.
Q. At Unseen Amsterdam 2017, you will also be presenting images from your series Momentum, which consists of photographs of chalkboards in various stages of use. Tell us more about this project and how it came about.
A. The works in this series are to-scale photographs of blackboards in academic institutions that specialise in quantum mechanics. The blackboards – photographed with a large format camera in emptied lecture halls – are depicted head-on without frames, their roiled surfaces reminiscent of mid-century abstract painting. The scuffing alludes to the expressive power of individual gesture, yearning for something inexpressible or beyond the limited bounds of language. My choice to photograph the study of quantum mechanics is no accident in this sense, as it is the study of microscopically tiny events whose formulae are expressed in abstract terms. Photographing these expressions provides additional meaning to the project, as each image records the physical traces of a mental movement – the speed, repetition and emphasis of individual strokes that suggest a particular train of thought or area of questioning. But each chalkboard also represents a loss of information that has been erased or smudged, mirroring the mind itself as it attempts to absorb the complex and inexpressible.