Abstraction and Light

written by William J. R. Curtis


Light is a dominant obsession in all of my work. Light itself is invisible: we know it mainly through its secondary effects on air, vapour, water, solids, voids, stone, plants, animal and human life – and of course on architecture... Photography is concerned by definition with the impression of light. A camera is in fact a small chamber which captures the visual world and transforms it. My photographs combine the instantaneous with an abstract order frozen in time. They are lyrical spaces in themselves, almost like paintings. I do not base them on my paintings, or my paintings on them, but they issue from the same sensibility, the same way of seeing things, the same way of perceiving space. The black and white images of rocks and water, volcanic landscapes and clouds reveal my fascination with the sublime, while their shadows could almost be painted in ink. If the mental landscapes suggest multiple associations and ideas, my photographs also distil earlier experiences and visual concepts, even as they frame a particular view. There is no doubt that they reflect examples from the history of art, but unconsciously, for there are no deliberate references. If one responds to a certain event or configuration in the outer world, it is surely because it touches upon some pre-existing pattern in the mind. Memories intervene and the subject itself – a fragment of reality caught in a moment – contains its own history and its own pasts. A photograph may become a resonance chamber fusing several durations of time.