Feature

JH Engstrom: Confusion is a Kind Mentor

By Brad Feuerhelm on October 25, 2016

“It is like so much wasted seed that seeks to capture its lineage via prize of an egg but instead failing, falls into the dry folds of a tissue or the recessed groove of dirty floorboards where it co-mingles with dust and the dried husks of insect skeletons, exo this, exo that”

Often palpitating and perhaps obnoxiously non-perverse, sealed and radiating specters of lives have been haunted and re-visited by the surgeon of these unmanaged moments. Serendipity often casts doubt in an uncontrolled environment like a science test in which the variables actively act to negate purpose and outcome to the irritation of the controlling agent. Light has been sliced from the incalculable fabric of an obtuse reality and so it splits the magic of the image from its nativity in the cerebral halls of a skull aflame in active synapse towards dirty and twitching fingers, which struggle and seek to release the shutter simply to capture the moment. It is like so much wasted seed that seeks to capture its lineage via prize of an egg but instead failing, falls into the dry folds of a tissue or the recessed groove of dirty floorboards where it co-mingles with dust and the dried husks of insect skeletons, exo this, exo that.

These explorations are cauterized by a temerity unsurpassed by the workings of an intrepid linear frequency and become the tethered twine of those struck and creased moments. All will fold in on itself. Thus the clarity of purpose, which coincides with the rapture of its perceptive candor, can never truly exist outside of that CLICKING Noise. The worlds of want, of unwashed table tops and seething, if graceful moments of humans caught entwined like the aforementioned rope, frayed and taut as their physicality orphans the complete power to associate that which is the image of a passing or several passings, instead surmounted akimbo by their potential meaning growing into the rusting framework of years sliced open by the uncomfortability of being. What Passes for existence? What passes for being human passes for being of a co-existing measure of light and compounds.

“And there is also a deeply uncomfortable reverse hidden with the matrix of color and of light while still active, alive if you will, that sheds its skin like an azure snake amongst the dried and wilting leaves of an autumn harvest. This same skin, replicable and yet growing looks for unexamined safety as the onset of ice burrows a nesting urge deep into its primordial brain”

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That there is a transfixed operator amongst the madness and disparate controls suggests the singularity of the problematic mode of thought that occupies the viewer that they may dwell on as representation and thus seeks an inevitable toehold on death’s doorstep. And there is also a deeply uncomfortable reverse hidden with the matrix of color and of light while still active, alive if you will, that sheds its skin like an azure snake amongst the dried and wilting leaves of an autumn harvest. This same skin, replicable and yet growing looks for unexamined safety as the onset of ice burrows a nesting urge deep into its primordial brain. And this is all conditioned by a vision beset from the sides of its skull, unable to ever clearly look forward, it glances the world at its side and in doing so sets free the direct drive to accomplish that which is in front of him. Honesty is as transient and fluid as it is integral to the material necessity of its host. We gain, we lose, we ignore and we digress.

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The distressing nectar of reason is that its fixity is ignored by the series of observations that follow. And in noting this, we note the one inescapable and finite truth-that the series before and the series of moments after negate the possibility of said fixity. So, we are left with the ignorance of these tiny moments, which mean nothing and are often not how we even saw them in the first place. The side view from the side of our skulls choosing to remind us that progression is the weakest of human desires.

“Honesty is as transient and fluid as it is integral to the material necessity of its host. We gain, we lose, we ignore and we digress”

The work of JH Engtrom is a bleached and awkward diary of moments from a life not my own. They are notes, perhaps casual observances of people, blisters of places and times not mine own, nor even entirely his. The contempt of the diaristic hangs heavily on the work. It is not to suggest these images are impersonal- far from it, but they are notations of the ever-dwindling flag posts of a life always in decline and transient in its ability to register a clarity of purpose. Scraps of pomegranates, twists and folds of bed sheets in various habitats flipped into negative attest to the perceptions of being lost in the certain unreality of existence. That confusion is a kind mentor is not to be undersold. In a way, this opus works as its own burial shroud. Such beautiful moments of life, of casual views out aborted windows, times and places crimes and graces elaborate nothing truly meaningful for the viewer as it is not their present moment to own. It is a glimpse into a series of glimpses that are the authors no matter how gratuitously beautiful they are and no matter how endearing or relative they are to the viewer.

“That confusion is a kind mentor is not to be undersold. In a way, this opus works as its own burial shroud”

Engstrom’s own history, his mentors and his complicity of working within a humanist genre are apparent and always have been. From Christer Stromholm, to Anders Petersen to JH, there is no way to clearly disassociate the humanism at work in three generations of Swedish Masters (as the text by Christian Caujole points out). To clarify, humanism photographically speaking, is to suggest for me a way of examining the subjective neurosis of being human, associating with other humans and all that encompasses that marginally by the use and abuse of a camera. From the food we eat, the loves we lose, the thin and sometimes marginal membrane of existence we lead and the inescapable subconscious desire to record and perhaps cheat our combined and inevitable end, this humanism is confidently singular, but relatively understood by photography’s ability to render the moment, no matter how dissident the methodology of representation is. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

JH Engstrom

Christian Caujole (Text)

REVOIR

Journal

(All Rights Reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm. Images @ JH Engstrom.)

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