A Profound Gravity draws connections between Science and Art, considering the gravitas and levity of the fundamental issues of life, death and the universe.
This latest series of works by Zan Wimberley is defined by a considered exploration of the intersection between photography as a process and the way in which it can be seen to metaphorically represent ideas surrounding mortality. Drawing on her knowledge as a trained scientific photographer, Wimberley breaks down and distils the elements that make up the photographic process to transmute lived emotional realities into poignant meditations on the human condition.
The exhibition marries together two sides of photography - the physics (optics, light and mass) with the conceptual - the mortality inherent within photography, best described by Roland Barthes as that which ‘produces death while trying to preserve life’. And so photography goes from being the medium to the subject matter as Wimberley uses photography (as both a construction and deconstruction) to illuminate the similarities, double meanings and gravitas of life, death and the photographic process.
Illustrative of this idea are a series of photographic images of exploding fireworks - fireworks having become something of a repeat motif within Wimberley’s practice over the last few years. Within the context of Wimberley’s images they are a beautiful metaphor of the fleeting nature of life, a metaphor also inherent in the nature of photography. And like photography – the magic of fireworks is conjured by nothing more than simple light and shadow.
At once strikingly beautiful and sublime, the photographs have been conceptualised as an experiment. The photographs are of the same subject matter, taken under the same conditions, with the same exposure, they have been striped back to black and white, and by removing these variables, it is to possible to look at photography and to understand the effect that light and dark can have on emotion. Some images capture the thrilling sense of wonderment and awe, some emulate how we imagine the start of the universe, others conjure a more poignant sense of loss, for every climactic explosion is fleeting, each image is different and no two people looking at the works will have the same experience.
In creating artworks in which the medium of photography becomes the subject Wimberley has also turned to neon and installation to explore the elements essential to photography. Using neon light and photographs printed onto silk, Wimberley invites us to consider the interplay between light and shadow through the way that the light bends around the folds of the silk and transmits through the tones of the material.
“A Profound Gravity is a show that is about photography. When people start talking about photography, they immediately start talking about something else. Typically, the photograph acts as a signifier - here’s a photo of XYZ – leading to an ensuing conversation about that particular topic.
Instead, my latest body of work aims to get people to think about photography. Photography as a discipline, not as a tool. And so I have chosen to present photographs of fireworks, because fireworks are only energy, light and dark, and the arrangement that they happen to form at any given moment can create a different kind of emotion, which I find endlessly fascinating. So along side traditional, framed photographs, I’ve made a series of works with the images printed on silk, and hung over neons, really as an invitation to look at photography not just as two dimensional framed works, but also as the light falling on and through materials, the emotions that that can provoke, while still thinking about all of the things contained within a photograph, time, life, death, the passing of a moment, the studium and the punctum.”
- Zan Wimberley (2018)
By creating artworks which negotiate the space between the heavy and almost incomprehensible reality of our fleeting time on earth and the mortality inherently implied by the photographic process, Wimberley’s work offers a poignant look at the complex subject of our own mortality.