24 March – 30 May 1999
Helen Robertson’s work concentrates on pushing the photographic image towards abstraction. Although actually images of a material subject, her photographs do not have a subject which is easy to identify and appear to be composed only of visual fields of lines or dots which subtly oscillate, reminiscent of Op-Art painting or the static field of an untuned television.
For Matt’s Gallery, Robertson has been commissioned to produce a body of new work. Probing the idea of the screen - a surface that receives or holds images - the new photographs appear at a distance to be blocks of colour drawn from a restricted tonal range, but as the viewer approaches the images begin to dissolve, their own density of visual information causing their surface to appear in constant motion. The images are like small screens waiting to hold information, presenting the viewer with almost tangible spaces that appear in constant flux. They are suggestions of potential. Waiting.
Choosing to work in the right hand gallery which is currently without windows or natural light, and thus sealed off from the outside world, the photographs’ minimal presence is the only element activating the space. Their installation responds directly to, and accentuates, the architecture of the building. Robertson has placed photographs at pivotal points in the gallery’s architecture, playing off its dominant features - four central pillars, two doors, the odd drainpipe, a curved wall. This wall is the furthest point in the gallery from its entrance and also the most active part of the installation, a cluster of 3 photographs exaggerating the distortion of the cube.
Robertson has described the rectangular frames created by the four central pillars as similar to “...a camera film gate, which moves as you walk around the space, framing and reframing”. As the viewer moves around the space, the columns cause the photographs to continually slip out of the viewer’s field of vision.
Appearing to be a meditation on the inert quality of the gallery, Robertson’s new work creates the suggestion of animation through its subtle spatial orchestration, the images almost appearing to puncture the gallery’s skin to reveal an abstract field beyond.