Preview :: Love You to Death
April 9th 2014
Weightless, deaf, your heart pounds past your ribs and reverberates down your bones, through your fingertips. Your body and its limits are suddenly real. Your breath runs thin.
For Annabelle Gasper, underwater was a place of escape following the loss of her father. His passing prompted a return to photography, inspired by her teenage experimentation with his 35mm camera. Some years, commercial success and many photographic series later, immersion still has the same meditative effect for Annabelle.
“Diving into water cures everything for me. It’s my alternate world.”
Her current series, Love You to Death, is a real nod to the Baroque period, which the artist has always loved for its theatrical, dramatic portrayal of emotion and religious tension. Her subjects, decadently robed, play out a knife-wielding drama that would not seem out of place in a Caravaggio. Annabelle brings new meaning to drenching her scenes in emotion, as the subjects struggle for air, against a descending foe, a lover, or death itself.
In some of the photos the production and chiaroscuro style lighting could easily be oils, making for an interesting inversion of the modern paradigm of traditional artists striving for photorealism. For Annabelle, the dialectic between photography and art is uncomplicated,
“Art is self expression. One of the ways I express myself is through photography so I guess for me they go hand in hand!”
Expression through different media is sort of Annabelle’s thing, working through theatre, design, music… You might have caught one of her DJ sets. But transported beneath the water, her photographic practice involves a lot more surrendering of control than that of the average photographer.
“One thing I have realised from doing underwater photography for a few years is that it takes a life of its own, it’s knowing how to guide what is happening but also letting it go and watching what happens. You know in your gut if it isn’t working and you change the approach.”
“With this particular shoot the water was soooooo milky from a full day of fabrics and a crew of 16 people hoping in and out of the water. I was really concerned about the clarity but what it gave me was an added painterly quality. This was definitely one of those unknown factors that worked especially with the chiaroscuro style lighting.”
The painterly quality mentioned is breathtaking. Annabelle executes, with the help of crew and equipment, a photographic version of the stark light/dark chiaroscuro contrast that typifies baroque art.
The fact that the texture, so rich and paint-like in appearance was somewhat of a perfect accident adds to the spontaneity and depth of each image.
The unknown has long been a theme of Annabelle’s aquatic scenes, a sense of absence and ambiguity floating still in water and frozen in the shot. This series is more direct in its thematic exploration of life’s great unknown, from which Annabelle hopes the audience can appreciate its beauty,
“We are all immortal. When we are confronted with death it almost becomes a social issue. It affects how we relate to each other and how we see ourselves. What have we accomplished, where are we going and where will we end up? If there is an afterlife what does it look like? How do we get there?”
“I think fundamentally we all hope that we will transcend to a place of beauty, a paradise, secular or non-secular whatever your belief is… A bit like closing your eyes and dancing, after a really shit day or week, and being transported elsewhere.”
You have to wonder what she’d make of dry land should she grow legs and wander up here some time. But for now at least, Annabelle says it’s better down where it’s wetter,
“I do take photos on land but prefer the submerged world. I don’t feel constrained, more like a challenge to create what I see in a space that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.”
Love You to Death runs from the 8th to the 27th of April at Black Eye Gallery in Darlinghurst (details below), and is a powerful experience in the flesh.
WHO :: Annabelle Gaspar
WHAT :: Love you to death
WHEN :: 8 – 27 April, opening drinks Thursday April 10, 6-8pm
WHERE :: Black Eye Gallery, 3/138 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst