AFTER VERMEER: TEXTS


 

You can download a PDF of an interview with Barbara Oudiz about this series here: EYEMAZING INTERVIEW

 


 

 Virginia Khuri  wrote the following piece for Lipservice, the magazine of the London Independent Photography group. (2006)

 

 

What is the relationship between photography and 17th century Dutch painting? A recent exhibition entitled After Vermeer at Hoopers Gallery in London presented the work of Paul Kilsby who explores this question through focusing his medium format camera on reproductions of paintings by Johannes Vermeer. His current images have evolved from that work and from an exhibition and book entitled The Seer and the Seen in which he explored the intensity of the gaze, both photographic and painterly. Here reproductions of paintings were torn, cut, burned, collaged and added too with objects before being photographed. This recent work is not so radical; the manipulations are more subtle - and limited to the work of one painter, Vermeer. Vermeer seems an appropriate choice as it is now confirmed that he used a 'camera obscura' in planning his paintings. (See Philip Steadman and David Hockney). If the photographic image from the 'camera obscura' was the beginning of a painting, then Paul's use of his camera - just another box with a lens attached - to make a final image seems to complete a circle. Optical seeing through use of the Camera Obscura is what gives the paintings their very modern-seeming veracity; when photographed, the stillness in the painting becomes transformed into a photographic caught moment, just a glimpse of everyday life. By using a particular quality of lens- sight (as opposed to painterly eye-sight), depth of field or differential focus, Paul manages to turn the timelessness of a painting into a filmic encapsulation of specific time. What was in a painting a stilled gaze becomes in the photograph a momentarily captured glance. Whereas the paintings are theatrical, geometrically composed and precisely lit, the photographs of them become film stills, incomplete and questioning. The use of parts of pictures, geometric interferences and of half drawn curtains seems to refer to and augment this transformation. The one image which seems to me to sum up the relationship of painting to photograph is The Geographer in which cones extend out from the geographer's eye to the near window and from his hand across to the opposite side of the frame. The eye and the gesture of hands are constant themes in all the images and are both involved in the transformations from painterly to photographic meaning. And it seems to ask the eternal question, what produces the 'art', hand or eye? Is he trying to chart the future of image making? Finally, it is fitting that these images were printed large, as large as some paintings (20"x24") and using the long tonalities of the 19th century platinum/palladium process, he has transformed the delicate light and rich colours of the original paintings into the equally sensuous and glowing tones of a photographic print. Paul worked very closely with the printers at 31 Studio to make both the large computer generated negatives and from them contact prints on the coated watercolour paper. These sixteen beautiful prints, homages to Vermeer, when hung in the elegant space of Hoopers Gallery, were a delight to both eye and mind. Paul Kilsby is known to many LIP members through the workshops he has given for the group. (See a review by Nancye Gualt in the April 2000 LIP magazine.) 

 


Philip Steadman has undertaken a sustained and fascinating study of Vermeer's use of the camera obscura:

VERMEER'S CAMERA


For general  information on Vermeer, visit  VIRTUAL VERMEER