“The Choreography of Pictorial Fetishes” by Manuel Geerinck
Afterword by WM Hunt
These are photographs.
These exist uniquely as photographs. The artist, Manuel Geerinck, is in pursuit of something specific that cannot be achieved in another medium. Whatever elements he has gathered – paper cutouts, string or wire – stuff, these appear to be arranged as still life's and then animated or set into motion. That movement is captured photographically in an instant, a fraction of a second. Think of them as "di-stilled-life's". The subject is hurtling through space or swinging on a pendulum; pfft and it is escaping into another dimension just as the camera catches it.
Alfred Steiglitz’s series of “equivalents” may be regarded as the earliest
of photographic abstraction where the image makes no literal reference to anything. It is not representational. The viewer is free to make any sort of associations. These do not have to be visual either. You can sense the presence of more than clouds although that is what you are seeing, similar to the impact music makes when it doesn’t summon up visions of dancing hippos or nature films with egrets taking off or landing on mirror-surfaced ponds.
These are true abstractions. You may think you see eggs and bugs and aliens and, indeed, clouds, but there is a beautiful vagueness to these. These are not recognizable things. Further there is a condensed gem-like quality to these disturbances in the center of the frame. Those are, in turn, swallowed up by the vibrant color field backgrounds - yellow, red, white and even gleaming blacks. These planes of color, sometimes divided in two, suspend these curious squiggles and drips.
Photographs are basically the magical capture of light on paper. When people describe them as “painterly”, this usually speaks to the way colors are discreetly blended or modeled. Ironically what they are describing is what makes a piece uniquely “photographic”. The artist is managing something that could only be done in a photograph.
Mr Geerinck’s photographs are distinctive and don’t conjure up reminders of work by other artists. There is a Modernist straightforwardness to the art making and perhaps a knowledge of painters from Miró to Bacon to Clyfford Still. The Geerinck works behave like isolated details in the larger works of those named artists but with a compressed power. The flatness of the surface behaves differently from any rough and tumble spackle-knifed Abstract Expressionist canvas. To go back to an earlier word, these are distillations of color and line. Any despairing or violent urgency is balanced by stillness; movement has been stopped.
The works can be read as meditations on light. Occasionally doubling and tripling of images, spilt screen variations on a theme, reinforce the primal excitement. It is not like looking at the jewel’s facets from different angles but more like a visual manifestation of a musical beat – boom boom or boom boom boom – triplets. These resonate and shudder through your body like a drum. You can feel it.
It is a strong title, “The Choreography of Pictorial Fetishes”. Fetish describes these markings, inanimate but with religious or mystical qualities that engage and fascinate us, and choreography speaks to their surprising and arresting dance.
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