Stavanger, October 2009
By Signe Hodne Stavanger Aftenblad
Christine Istad in the throes of an exotic project
Christine Istad is engrossed by all that is Japanese – Japanese culture, history and landscape. Taking this alien world as a springboard, she has succeeded in creating a distinctive photographic idiom of her own. The result is minimalist and expressionistic at one and the same time – minimalist, because she cuts to the bone, reducing form and content to simple geometrical shapes; expressionistic, because she has not managed or wanted to exclude sensuality and depth of feeling. This is an important point, because it is precisely the sensual atmosphere that arises due to the encounter with the works' minimalism that enriches me as a spectator.
Istad's large-format photographs are mounted between two layers of Plexiglas. This creates a good effect; it is as if the pictures are floating in space at some distance from the wall. The surfaces are divided into rectangles and stripes and the various areas in each individual picture have varying degrees of opacity and transparency. The degree of translucency affects the intensity of the colours: a transparent area produces strong colours, while a frosted area reduces the intensity and blurs the borders between the colours. This is similar to staring at a point for a long time without blinking: suddenly the motif dissolves in front of your eyes.
The video work "ITO" depicts hands folding a piece of material. The focus is on the black piece of fabric and the task is performed in a ritual and impersonal way – with significance on a higher plane. The photographs, too, can be described as impersonal, but this does not make them uninteresting – quite the reverse. Their impersonal character means that the spectator herself can become the subject of Istad's visual world.
Istad may be interested in facts about Japan, but she does not present us with them – rather, her photographs are characterised by a kind of aura of mystery. Her approach is not that of a sociologist or a historian; Istad cultivates the artist's look at reality and allows us to see the world in a new light.