Most of us are hardwired to look at a photograph in its two-dimensional nature. As viewers, we can easily perceive what it intends to express or represent. While photography and photographs continue to evolve their quality in the age of digital technology, the experiential response remains the same.
An encounter with one of the works of Catherine Evans, Australian contemporary visual artist, titled Constellation, challenges one’s perception of how a photograph can transcend the limits of its two-dimensional form and evoke a profound experience.
Constellation (2016) consists of monochrome images of the artist’s back with lines connecting and intersecting various points of light. These points were in fact the moles and blemishes found on Catherine’s back. The lines were drawn directly on the print using a ruler and ballpoint pen to create a new constellation “akin to the mapping of stars against a night sky.”
“I shot the series with a large format camera and printed the photographs by hand in the darkroom. The final prints I made were inverted so that the dark moles and blemishes appear as small points of light against a dark, ambiguous surface,” she said.
Catherine’s unconventional process —beginning from conceptualization, construction and up to the presentation of the artwork— is a combination of experimental and traditional techniques. While her background is deeply rooted in photography, she also works across sculpture and installation.
“Often the starting point for an installation is a photograph, which can simply act as a blueprint for the installation, but unlike a map that only provides a route to a destination, I also hold the photograph with the same regard as the installation, as a complete artwork in its own right.”
From a mere two-dimensional form, Constellation takes on a new structure when Catherine showcased the series. “When I exhibited Constellation, I presented it as part of a wall installation made with sticky-tape where the transparent geometrical lines continued the motif of the blue ballpoint lines around the room, beyond the frame.”
The result is an astounding piece of work that distorts the reality of a physical space between wall to wall. The viewers’ sight adjusts to the optical illusion brought by the transparent geometrical lines and takes on a new level of meaning and perception.
“As an artist I am interested in this mirroring of forms and materials, but also finding links between things at different scales. In my work I try to create a tension between these opposites, in the series Constellation, between something as expansive as the stars in the sky and something as small and private as the marks on a human body.”