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.