Solo show at Gallery Svae, Gjøvik, Norge.
The detail in the big picture
Oppland Arbeiderblad, 29 April 2017
Text by Tanja E. Caldecourt
Christine Istad does not manipulate her photographs, nor does she even call herself a photographer. Istad is a visual artist. The photographs are painting-like and she manipulates the viewer more than pictures. In a way, she even changes the subject.
Gallerist Hilde Svae has followed the artist, Istad, for years. The first paintings she exhibited were subsequently purchased by Gjøvik VGS (Gjøvik secondary school).
“I still think like a painter,” says Istad today. In this exhibit, she uses brushed aluminium instead of photo paper. Elements that would otherwise have been white thus have a more dynamic appearance depending on how the light plays across the surface.
So, what are we really seeing? What is the subject? Istad tells you very little about that. All you can do is guess. She tells us where the pictures were taken: in metropolises like New York and Hong Kong. But it is up to each person to see. She is fascinated by architecture, glass and reflections, the urban and the monumental. Even so, she is not just showing us the city and its buildings. Istad turns what is probably the outer wall of a hotel building into an abstract and mystical world. The stringent forms and straight lines seem to play with what is and what we create ourselves. There are optical illusions – or not.
Aesthetic and intellectual
A video plays on a tiny screen mounted on the wall in Svae’s. We are told that it was taken in a business district in Hong Kong. A man is doing Tai Chi. A woman paces back and forth, talking on a mobile phone. Water flows in the fountain in the background. Cars drive past. One frame. Many bubbles of life. All the individuals are caught up in their own worlds and are not interacting with the outside world. The video becomes a sort of philosophical exercise. It is one thing to appreciate the intellectual contribution but what about the aesthetic aspect? Istad’s pictures are decidedly beautiful, too. Using brushed aluminium as the background is brilliant. It adds something extra to the motifs and makes them surprisingly “alive” and substantial.
We do not see what Istad saw as she trudged around in the urban jungle looking for things to shoot – in the photographic sense. We see what was captured by her inner zoom. She gets us to look more closely at things we would normally have walked right past. We would not even have noticed them if she had not pointed them out to us. The small detail on the tall building in the enormous city.
“Art should make the moment greater,” said artist and friend Elise Schonhowd, and that is a good way to sum it up.
Stavanger, October 2009
By Signe Hodne
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.