“Completely captivated by the photographic possibilities of light, both artists come at the medium with a desire to seek the extraordinary, in order to access invisible states of consciousness.”
The work of art seeks to move us towards some kind of enlightenment. If, within the frame of western philosophies, such as Hegel’s assertion that we move towards the ‘spirit’, or the greatest idea of ourselves and in certain eastern philosophies invoking the sacred nature of light. Our ability to transcend immediate reality and move towards a concept of perfection, of this ‘idea’, is implicitly tied to the affections of art and light. This is perhaps no more so clear than the way we are enraptured by light as photographers – light is everything.
The origin of this is the Sun, to which we owe our existence. The celestial day provides the assurance of day and night and in doing so sets up this absolute certainty.. It is from the darkness of space that light emerges and this forms the existential duality we know as the abyss and the life that comes from it, in birth or in awakening. It is in praise of this that religious places seek to channel light: through the stained glass of a church or from the soft warmth of the candle flame, both elevate the devout towards the divine.
Photographic light often does exactly the opposite. These photons assist the medium in rooting us to the earth, terra firma that is, a way in which to know ourselves in relation to the objects around us, to secure us in-situ, to be cognizant of what we know we see and to so often prove ‘this was here’. Photographic realism’s grounding qualities are at times, at odds with arts transcendental powers, so much so that when we see the sublime in a photograph – the ultimate, mind-blowing sunset, a resplendent El Capitan in Yosemite or the NASA image of earthrise taken from the ascending Lunar Module, our souls are momentarily touched.
“Photographic realism’s grounding qualities are at times, at odds with arts transcendental powers, so much so that when we see the sublime in a photograph – the ultimate, mind-blowing sunset, a resplendent El Capitan in Yosemite or the NASA image of earthrise taken from the ascending Lunar Module, our souls are momentarily touched.”
Both Katrin Koenning and Sarker Protick in Astres Noirs, published by Chose Commune imaginatively play with light the through their smartphones, taking us, delightfully, well beyond the limits of the everyday camera-phone digital aesthetic or the daily snap enhanced by film simulation filter settings. It was through posts on their respective Instagram feeds that the book’s editors, Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi and Vasantha Yogananthan saw a potential dialogue emerging. It was clear that both artists were interested in the creative possibilities of transcending reality and so the editors sought to craft a publication that might begin to mimic the magic of the backlit screen. Completely captivated by the photographic possibilities of light, both artists come at the medium with a desire to seek the extraordinary in order to access invisible states of consciousness. Protick’s interest in photography, sparked after breaking his mobile phone camera lens, pointing it at the sun, perhaps signals a new generation of image makers not fixated on any decisive moment. His work naturally imbues a spirituality that, I think, is often lost on western audiences. In contrast, the experience of Koenning’s migration from Germany to Melbourne in Australia has gifted her an impulse to seek emotional resonance in her surroundings. Her search for connections to place is about engaging with the world through the love it inspires in her mind. The essence of both their work, therefore, appears to be rooted in the personal and meditative relationship they have with metaphysical thought and less with rigid notions of representing a photographic reality. Astres Noirs gives us an insight into their supernatural vision through these fairly eclectic astral projections.
Initially, assuming their work would be near impossible to reproduce in print, it wasn’t until I sat in my sunlit office that I came to fully appreciate the book. As I thumbed through its black pages, the light delicately reflected the silver ink of the images and I began to feel the enchantment these images truly hold yet again. Having been a follower of both Koenning and Protick for some time on Instagram, often being mesmerised by their images and regularly dumbfounded at how they might have been created, I was beautifully reminded of the very natural affinity both artists have towards a higher state of consciousness.
(All rights reserved. Text @ Sunil Shah. Images @ Katrin Koenning and Sarker Protick.)