Constructed Landscapes / Reviewed by Katy Barron / 29.06.17
Dafna Talmor is an Anglo-Israeli artist who has been working with lens-based media for over a decade. Her latest series Constructed Landscapes II investigates the photographic, historic and psychological processes associated with depicting the landscape. This new work has evolved from an earlier series of the same name which also used spliced negatives to create imaginary landscapes. These were simpler and perhaps more utopian than Talmor’s new work which questions geography and memory and references history and the processes of photography. This is Talmor’s first solo exhibition and an opportunity to see a number of large colour c-prints of the new series presented alongside a wall vinyl that consists of a repeat pattern made from a scan of the Perspex board used to cut the artist’s negatives. Some of the prints are quite beautiful, recalling the hyper-detail of Victorian landscape painters such as Ruskin or the pictorialist landscapes of the late nineteenth century which often employed more than one negative within an image.
The physical materials that form the basis of Talmor’s images are taken from the artist’s archive of photographic negatives made over many years in numerous locations. She slices up these negatives, literally sticking them back together with tape, repurposing them into new imaginary landscapes that in turn appear to reference other, unknown, locations. During this process the personal places and their associated memories become abstracted and re-presented into new landscapes that bear little visual relationship to the original image. The act of slicing up negatives could be perceived as almost barbaric. It is both sacrilegious and brave and of course irreversible – something that is rarely associated with photography in the digital era.
Whilst Talmor is not inviting us to play a guessing game in trying to establish where the original negatives were taken it is important to understand that the negatives were made in places of great significance to her, where she lived or visited frequently, so that the new works could be considered as psycho-geographies or metaphorical landscapes. It is tempting to wonder if she is trying to re-write the memories formed at the time the negatives were made? The images can also be read as typologies as they include tropes that are to be found within the history of landscape painting and photography such as pastoral scenes, desert scenes, beaches, aerial views. However each image’s significant imperfections and the clear areas of overlapping negatives and unfilled spaces remind the viewer of their physicality and manufacture.
In her manipulation of the image Talmor places herself within a tradition that stretches back to the origins of landscape photography. However the Constructed Landscapes are equally contemporary in their re-presentation of existing archival materials and references to re-purposing, and it is this tension between history and contemporary practise that makes the series so relevant. Although one could suggest Talmor’s work is in dialogue with what is perceived as a predominantly male tradition of landscape art, the delicate studio-based nature of this work could also be seen as a reference to traditionally female crafts. Again, it is this curious balancing act that makes the series significant.
The photographic landscape is at the forefront of a great deal of contemporary image making and theory and it is brave for any young artist to enter into this deeply considered realm. It is a testament to Talmor that her Constructed Landscapes manage to establish their own quiet space within such a crowded field. The series investigates ideas of truth and reality within the realm of the artist’s memory as she slices and splices her past, but also in the images themselves, as the viewer is forced to question the reality before them and to look and look again.
– reviewed for Photomonitor by Katy Barron
For further viewing:
Dafna Talmor’s works will be included in two shows this summer: Her Nature, at Maddox Arts, London 29 June – 2 September, 2017 and in Synthetic Landscapes, at Weston Park, Shropshire, 4 June – 3 September, 2017
A self-published artist book funded by Arts Council England and designed by Loose Joints with commissioned texts by Sarah Butler, Miranda Gavin, Shoair Mavlian, Gemma Padley and Olga Smith was produced to coincide with the solo show at Photofusion. More information can be found here.
Dafna Talmor Constructed Landscapes was exhibited at Photofusion, London 9 March – 6 April, 2017
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