A picture opens up.
Text: Elise Schonhowd, artist
New York #10, 2016, 107x255 cm, photography on brushed aluminium.
When an image first emerges, and later turns into what is to become a work of art, it is subject to a process that only in parts reveals itself to the awareness of the artist. There is of course the clear intention of the photographer, but rarely does a work of art spring from that alone. Along with the audience who sees the work on the gallery-wall for the first time, also the artist is in part a participant in an unfolding of the image that will inform as well as question the very bases for its existence. A moment caught by the camera introduces us into a world that stretches far beyond that which we are seeing, in this case the seafront of a modern building. The history of image making goes far back in human history, and one might therefor dare to speculate that the image itself has sprang forward, for us to catch a glimpse of something beyond our expectation.
There will most likely be many occurrences taking place as an image draws attention, first from the artist and later from the audience. The picture presently in question, hangs on the wall, large and shining. A quality that at first might be described as that one of dry denim, is visually present at a first glance. It covers the brushed aluminum plate the photo is printed on, creating in its wake a sense of an animated surface. A surface capable of inviting a closer encounter with the viewer. As one walks closer the work seems almost alive, light tracing the movements of the curious spectator. Elegant, horizontal, low-voiced, the photo evokes a sense of an ordered structure. Though some of the work might look abstract. One observes fine lines, vertical shapes, divisions that repeat themselves. This might lead to a first impression calling up related scores such as in minimalistic music. The repetitions might be to blame for this, or - is blame really the correct word to use? Why blame? Could it be because on a closer look one realizes that the first impression was deceiving, and that the picture surface covers as much as it slowly starts to reveal.
At a closer look, that which lays as a base - the brushed metal - and the photo printed on top, meets in a flowing feast for the eye. Then, at first, is perhaps somewhat confusing, since what gets picked up is that which breaks away from the solidity of the piece of modern architecture, it all of a sudden presents us with the presence of water reflected on the surface of the building. We notice that none of the windows we thought provided us with the idea of repetitions, well …none of them now seem to be quite alike. A small eternity passes as one delights in the play of light on the glass. Looking becomes something more. It becomes physical. The gallery floor we stand on melts away under our feet as our perception changes. At this moment, we might be drawn to associate and remember the work of the American artist Bill Viola, who's many films slows us down to a different sense of space and time. As the image slows down, so do we, and movement seems to take place in just such a sense of water. The water becomes time and the human bodies we watch, exists in a light made of air.
The picture on the wall continues to open up, continues to open us up perhaps, at the same time. A movement takes place in two directions simultaneously. We enter further into the building as we also become aware of a bodily inner space bathing in the shimmering light from the water. We are in a large city, NY, but what seems to create a bridge between the seen and that not seen, is the natural presence of water. We move with ease from the cool surface of a modern building into where the people are. A measure of time has at that moment changed.
The sky is part of the water. The wind is part of the water. The boats that sail by puts in motion something we recall. We aren't only seeing at this point; the pool of memories is stirred up. The morning light washes cleanses our gaze, and we can see further, clearer. Closer. Our eyes catches hold of more, of details, previously overlooked. We notice something soft and realize that we are looking at curtains, and we realize soon because of their similarly that we are looking - not at just any modern office building, but a hotel full of stories of lives lived parallel to ours. Rooms without permanent inhabitants, box-like structures that witness the lives of the many that for hours and days on end find refuge here. Alone or accompanied by someone. Seeking freedom from all at home, withdrawal from life's many difficulties, exposure in anonymous surroundings, expectations of the many things the city has to offer, or sheer weariness from the hustle and bustle of a hectic working life, are some of the reasons why people stay in these rooms for a while.
The curtain that opens these inner spaces and numerously imagined lives lived in these rooms, might not be noticed at first and then suddenly appear by surprise as one’s initial gaze is about to leave the picture. And as these imagined lives are seen, one will notice a small change of pace, and the curtain that partially hides a bed, draws our thoughts towards (the) night. Towards the body. Towards human skin. It stands there - unmade. Someone will come. Someone will clean and tidy. But here are the traces of the person who lays there. Alone or together with somebody. And that is when you might feel that you have seen this before, in other places, at other times. Maybe you will think of the old masters, like the painter Giotto who's alter pieces might have been ones first encounter with art. One might remember the bottom panels which illustrates the lives of the saints, the many difficulties taking place, so different to the calm promising state of the main central panel. You stand there, experiencing the inner depths and the surface, at the same time. With skin. And the smooth shining surfaces. That is when you realize that the picture has just barely begun to reveal itself.
That is how I remember the picture I saw in Gjøvik, Norway, April 2017.