Showcasing a new body of photographic work, artists Giulietta Coates and Daniel Anhut, draw upon the idea of shadow as metaphor, through the melancholy of absence and relationships between beauty and mortality. Mysterious images depict the unsettling nature of loss, death and longing, giving us an imaginary possession of elusive experiences and intangible pasts.
Both artists draw upon this theme of the shadow of shadows, either through the melancholy of absence, or through what it means to live with the elusive nature of mortality.
In her landscape photographs, Coates depicts the unsettling nature of loss and beauty, dread and longing. Perceptive to the non-apparent, being and non-being, she speaks of this longing as feeling like nostalgia, but not for something once had and has since been lost, but more a nostalgia for what never was. Coates explains, “The grandiose landscape that surrounds me, whilst strikingly beautiful, remains utterly at a distance and unavailable to interpretation. It keeps me from myself, and torments me with its total inaccessibility.”
For Coates, this void sets up a kind of death space, where connection and intimacy are longed for but remain forever elusive. Her method then, is to have ‘conversations’ with individual motifs – a rock, a pool of water, a wooden stump – allegories for wider narratives that speak of our mysterious relationship to the ‘otherness’ of beauty, and of the natural world in the face of our own mortality.
She continues, “I want to make work that expresses the idea of beauty as signifying that death is ever present. If we didn’t die, I think artists and philosophers would say and make very different work. Perhaps we wouldn’t even make any work at all. For what is beauty when there is no shadow? In this way the creative impulse is intertwined with our own temporality.”
Seeing her language as essentially aligned with Romanticism, Coates now feels that photography IS the medium of death and longing.
Berlin-based photographer, Anhut, constructs atmospheric allegories of loss and disappearance by capturing real, abandoned buildings and creating fictional, narrative moments that touch on the fundamental issue of transience. His darkly monochrome work captures abandoned or decaying rooms and spaces, now seemingly devoid of any function, and transforms them into new stories as captured through his ambiguous lens, thus inviting the viewer to use their own imagination and resonate with the transient stories held within each scene.
For Anhut, the unapproachable, uncanny beauty he has no access to informs his work, he says, “So all of what remains for me is the traces of transience that I can deal with. I am interested in the left-over traces of something that existed and is no longer there, in order to create something new out of it before it disappeared into nothingness.”
At times, characters appear within Anhut’s imaginatively staged settings; strange beings which are obscure, blurred and sometimes only just shadows of themselves – as shadowy as the rooms they have been left behind in. In his latest series ‘Wonderland’ Anhut takes us on an exploration of surreal rooms in an abandoned hotel, a journey, which challenged him to take his style further and do something quite unfamiliar.
Both artists use either black and white or monochrome tones, which underline the ambiguity and mysterious tension in their imagery.