Solo exhibition by Max Keene
The exhibition Costume Jewelry utilizes large format analog photography to depict highly constructed scenes made up of found and sculpted objects. Questioning the notion that photography is an objective medium, this work portrays simulated or impossible forms with implied motion that appear simultaneously shoddy and spectacular.
Our contemporary moment is marked by a pervasive cultural nostalgia. The internet, once heralded as a force for progress, has allowed for our past to feel closer than ever and provided ample space for reactionary politics to develop. This “retro” sensibility is persuasive, but exists seamlessly alongside the rise of automation and AI. This collision of past and future is key to my work. Much of my practice involves producing objects and images that are wholly physical or analog but appear to be digitally manipulated. I use large format analog photography to depict sculptures and found objects in a precise, curated manner that confuses scale and material. While the photographs I take are “real” in the sense that they are images of actual objects recorded onto photographic film, they appear manipulated or digitally rendered. It is true they are deceptive, but not through digital alteration. Rather they are deceptive because the nature of photography itself allows for a great degree of deception.
All nine images in this exhibition were photographed with the same method. I use a 4×5 camera to capture three images of each scene on black and white film. For the three exposures, the lens is obstructed with red, blue and green filters respectively. Once the film is developed and scanned, the images are converted to cyan, yellow and magenta respectively and are layered over one another to produce a full colour image. This process is very similar to the original method of creating Technicolor films, and produces uncanny images with shifts in colour determined by slight movement between exposures. I’m drawn to this process as when it is utilized to depict highly constructed subject matter it becomes difficult to determine whether the process is an analog photograph or a digital rendering. The shifts in colour and unusual fringing around the edges are not familiar analog imperfections, but rather appear similar to digital glitches.
My subject matter is intended to exacerbate this confusion and further push the images into a liminal space between simulated and “real.” Utilizing sculptural forms and found objects, I intend to produce facades that reference everything from video games to clip art graphics with distinctly physical objects. If we examine how 3D rendering software is used in a contemporary context, it’s clearly evident that the goal is often to mimic photography. Video games and 3D rendered animations make ample use of lens flares and simulate depth of field/motion blur. If a character in a contemporary video game is walking through the rain, drops may appear on the screen as if they have landed on some imaginary lens. These characteristics were once undesirable in photography, but in emulating them the simulated feels as though it is more real. In contrast, in my work I often utilize characteristics that are distinctive of digital rendering softwares and photoshop, forms that feel undesirably digital. These include tiled repeating textures, physical forms that appear squashed or stretched, flat plains and uncanny colours. As the development of photography presented a challenge to painting and pushed the painters of the time to produce work that was colourful and abstract, perhaps contemporary artists using photography should see the prevalence of “photo-realistic” digital rendering as an opportunity to contrast such and exploit photography’s inherently deceptive nature.
Max Keene is an artist based in Edmonton, Alberta. Utilizing photography and installation, Max’s prints deal with how our experience of the everyday is shaped by artifice. This exhibition marks the completion of his term as Emerging Artist in Residence at SNAP.
Opening reception: Friday, July 5th, 7-9pm
SNAP is a public gallery so admission to our exhibitions is always free!
10123 121 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5N 3W9
July 5, 2019 - August 10, 2019