Diorama Magazine 2012
/Zoe De Luca: To compose by means of collages means to find and to reuse pre-existing images, textures and graphics which therefore adduce the memory of their original meaning; to juxtapose images from remote epochs and realities means to further question the primary nature of each piece. What has influenced the choice of the raw material and how much of its own history do you permit it to preserve?
Abigail Reynolds: Some photographs that I find in books utterly captivate me. These are always of place rather than person. A really good photo- graph transports the viewer, describing a world in arresting particularity. The details of this world as described by the photograph are beguiling. My primary impetus in making my work is to unfold for myself the layers of meaning in a photograph, to expose its formal qualities and its context. My work invites a very close reading of the original images that I use and to put them under tension by associating them with other found photo- graphs. This is like a balancing act in which neither image dominates the other, but affords a conversation. I sometimes tightly compress the book pages, by pushing one image through another. Sometimes I rather loosely associate or combine the photographs. I allow myself to be guided by the photographs that I find. Photographs often call out to me very clearly, but it might take years for that image to find a suitable partner image or im- ages to allow me to mobilise the latent quality that I find so intriguing. It’s the concrete sense of a convincing and coherent world that attracts me to the photographs I work with. I always require the photograph to remain itself, to be absolutely itself, in terms of the paper used, the moment of the shutter closing, the print quality of the time of reproduction and perhaps above all the intention of the photographer. My work is not at all aligned with the surrealist tradition in collage in which the original image becomes by magic another thing (a sausage becomes a nose and so on) I want the origin of the image to remain and rather than subvert the fundamental qualities of the image that interests me, I want them to be underlined. As I search among books there are sets of images that intrigue me, and so my work often resolves itself in seriality. In the studio I weave in and out of different series; all related but focusing their attention slightly differently. My work with book plates began with ‘The Universal Now’, which layers together two moments in time. These works focus on one place, generally a London monument. Working with these images interested me in a more fictive or filmic approach, combining interiors. Following that, my last two solo shows focussed on photographs that describe the British Countryside. This is far more about the culture that produces certain photographs than purely the photographs themselves. Context is more important here.
/ZDL: The choice to work with heterogeneous materials and to create situations in which you drive them to interpenetrate, leads the viewer to observe them from a different point of view and to assign them new mean- ings. How much do you emphasize the concept of communication and unity in your work?
AR: The drive of my work is idealistic - I do seek to reconcile the disparate. In my most recent works this is often socio-political, so a line of women encircling Greenham Common (the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp 1981-91) merges with a line of spectators to a Morris Dance (‘The Maidens’ 2011). One group is considered conservative, the other radi- cal feminist and therefore are often directly opposed. However, I can see many alignments in terms of an attitude to place and the countryside. I often combine works using pre-existing lines through the photographs, so they become formally meshed. This formal reconciliation extends to the subject of the photograph. Within the limits of mass-reproduced photo- graphs (from the 1890’s to the present), ‘The Universal Now’ unifies two moments in time. These moment might be as far apart as 1912 and 1961 (for example ‘The Albert Hall 1912 / 1962’ (2010)). I am simply working with the great subject of all photography which is of course time. I use the time traveling aspect latent in photography in an explicit way. As if one could simultaneously inhabit two moments in time. ‘The Universal Now’ provokes a meditation of time and a human place within time. Often the subject of the photograph, nominally a monument remains unchanged, but the manner in which the monument is imaged and printed is subtly altered. The technique I have developed for ‘The Universal Now’ is an interpenetration of time, as concretised in the photograph. Both images are simultaneously present in one continuous piece of paper. To do this they have to extend into the vertical axis rather than remain flat. The paper buckles when I fold the layers of time together, which furthers the sense of a bucking and compression of time happening in the work. I took the title from debates in Quantum Physics, in which the question of time is probed geometrically and theoretically on a universe-scale; questioning wether there could be ‘now’ across the whole universe; what this might mean. The- ories of time, of which the most popular is the ‘wormhole’, are sublime in contemplation. ‘The Universal Now’ occupies itself with the sublime idea but at a human level. There’s quite a lot of geometry in the universal now. The element of ‘The Universal Now’ that most interests me has become the dark line where one tile of paper meets another - where the image shoots back to meet itself in a different time. These dark slits are abyssal.
/ZDL: You model personal and sometimes intimate spaces, recreating them from the collective imagination. From which desire derives the decision to produce something totally individual using, however, highly recognizable material, thus evoking the subtle borderline between public and private?
AR: The series of work that splice together rooms from different buildings I call ‘interiors’, since the word ‘interior’ carries a freight of ‘interiority’, referencing the emotional world we create for ourselves. Domestic interiors are a projection of our inner worlds. Although I often work with photo- graphs of dynastic houses it is not to be forgotten that these are for fami- lies, to suit individuals. They are an explicit projection of a sense of self. Architects spatialise a interiority, self as space. Films relevant here would be the hotel in ‘L’année dernière à Marienbad’ (1962) and also Overlook hotel in ‘The Shining’ (1980). These extraordinary architectural spaces are extremely charged with the psychological state of an individual, though it’s a communal space. The viewer is destabilised by the patchwork of actual spaces which comprise one of the rooms I create. If ‘The Universal Now’ positions the viewer rather exactly, the interiors are the inverse of this. The viewer can’t locate herself in any of the actual rooms - being bewilderingly present in all of them.
/ZDL: The visual feature of immediate impact is often the opening which permits to investigate perspectives or to explore new visual combinations. At a sensory level, the primary boost is therefore represented by a real threshold which suggests not only itself, but also a vast potential world that is often pointed at, but never shown or revealed completely. Does this symbolic predominance stem from a contemplative or rather a questioning volition?
AR: For me contemplation actually IS a process of questioning. It’s a very active state. I use my work to ask ‘what if?’ on a material and psychologi- cal level. A really interesting work of art should operate on many levels, have layers of signification that unfold, even though the work might ap- pear superficially simple. The art works I love best are pleasurable to contemplate intellectually and physically (or optically) and unfold a series of linked questions. There is a certain irrationality in my work, which is es- sential. All of the largest questions are in any case unanswerable.
/ZDL: So your work also questions the nature of time, of the concurrent presence of more instants melted in one impossible moment of meditation: is this intended as a private or as an inevitably shared moment?
AR: My perception of the present is shaped by social norms. I recognise my moment of vision to be connected (though sometimes subconsciously) to global conversations; a dialogue across territories, history and individualities.