Once, Still & Forever
november 7th - december 22th
Once Still and Forever takes us on time travels through the works of Jessica Backhaus. The title of her latest series veritably demands that we think about what has been, what is and what will remain in the future. Taking this title as a guiding principle when viewing the succession of Backhaus’s work series, the direction her oeuvre has taken since 2005 becomes clear.
The period of personal upheaval and cultural readjustment in the photographer’s life has given rise to heightened awareness and more intense contemplation of the fragility of emotions and of human existence itself. As a photographer, Jessica Backhaus is fortunate to be able to give expression to her sometimes confusing emotional states through her work. The works of this series in particular seem to glow with special intensity in their extraordinary beauty: melancholy and sadness are mirrored in wilting flowers.
A tied-up tree dangles from a cord and yet seems fixed in place (Fate). An abandoned swimming pool may signify loneliness and numb emptiness, pointy shards of glass atop a wall given the title Why question the point and intention of deliberate emotional injury. Other motifs, however, derive their effects mainly through their formal language: image surfaces shatter and confuse the eye of the viewer (Lucky Strike), grid-like structures get in the way of an open view (One Moment).
Backhaus’s compositions appear complex and challenging in a novel way. Rarely do they evoke the warm, friendly feelings her earlier images did. Often, darker tonalities dominate the still lifes. Up to this point, bright pink, turquoise and bold red furtively ran the show in her earlier series. Harmonious guides of this sort are now largely abandoned. Black emerges as a significant “color” in her vocabulary. The vastest area of blackness appears in Farewell Spit, in which only the silver reflection of the moon interrupts the deep darkness of the water’s surface. In Dorsoduro a small island of yellow flowers defies the darkness, and yet the atmosphere seems curiously threatening – similar to the way an approaching thunderstorm distorts familiar colors and brings with it unforeseeable forces of nature.
Nevertheless, the photographs would not be by Jessica Backhaus if the colors did not assert themselves – however modestly – against the darkness. In Harbor, for example, a glowing pink buoy floats atop the green water in front of a dark quay wall. The title suggests the safety of a home port, but in fact the buoy is drifting alone on the waters without any apparent association within the overall context of the image. This creates ambivalence, where associative clarity was once the rule.
In Backhaus’s most recent series, personal and formal development is intertwined, as revealed in novel image compositions. The basic principle driving her working method becomes plain here. It is a statement by the painter Caspar David Friedrich that Gisèle Freund had suggested to her in various conversations: “A painter should paint not only what he sees before him but also what he sees within.” How this motto will continue to affect her work remains to be seen. In keeping with the title Once Still and Forever, Backhaus’s sensitive and observant eye and her unmistakable signature will surely endure.
for more information : http://www.jessicabackhaus.net/
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