Color Cue: Artist's Statement

Syl Arena

Constructed Voids

My 'Constructed Voids' merge mystery with spectacle in a manner that diverges from typical expectations of how photographs convey light, vision, and time. Originating in a deconstructive manner (which is as much an oxymoron as the series title), these photographs portray new realities through the confluence of their previously separated elements. 

I position these works as ethereal landscapes—sublime, yet otherworldly—and embrace the idea that their visual ambiguity invites interpretation. To that end, their titles (‘Ela,’ ‘Schen,’ ‘Quin,’...) are fabricated words intended to strip away narrative connotation and encourage unmediated consideration. 

Many mistakenly see these photographs as computer-generated. Certainly they appear to contain non-photographic qualities—deeply saturated colors, shifting figure-ground relationships, shadows that randomly change hue, and zigzags that suggest glitches in digital code. 

Their visual truth is that these images originate as tabletop constructs of glossy paper, glass and metal. Their glossy twists provide form and reflection. A trio of primary-colored lights creates the color palette. Where two hues converge to create a third, spatial ambiguity emerges where the interference of the paper’s edge casts a shadow that reveals just one of the parent colors. 

Counterintuitively, artifacts of time are visible throughout. Each exposure requires many minutes for the narrow sensor of my vintage scanning back to walk in thousands of micro-steps across my 4x5 camera. Zigzags result when the paper vibrates under the heat of the lights. Their visibility establishes these photographs as analogs of the time that passed during their creation, gentle reminders of time's flowing nature. 

In our increasingly screen-based world, the 'Constructed Voids' are exhibited as image-objects. They are presented as bare sheets of chromogenic paper with internal frames the bend the print off the wall. Viewers are often surprised to find that these photos undulate outward into their space. Further, the unsupported surfaces undulate gently under the gallery ventilation.