Melbourne-based photographer Shannon McGrath explores the work of architect Frank Gehry in her exhibition Evolving Possibilities.
September 15th, 2011
The latest exhibition of works by photographer Shannon McGrath is a response to Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao and Hotel Marques de Riscal in El Ciego in Spain.
Examining Gehry’s buildings up close in sections, the photographs aim to make sense of the whole. The buildings’ surfaces are the focal point of the images – the protective membranes shielding the vulnerable interior like a skin.
Indesignlive caught up with McGrath to gain an insight into the inspiration behind the series.
Gehry’s work is so polarising – but you seem to really appreciate his vision. What sets him apart from other architects and draws you to his work?
As an architectural photographer, when I come across Gehry’s projects, I am immediately attracted to their shape and form. These are obvious hallmarks of Gehry’s, but it is the way in which the light hits the surfaces of his structures that really holds my interest. When viewing Gehry’s projects, you get a sense that he is not approaching them as merely a building, but rather, he is creating a work of art, just as when you look at his sketches they are beautiful drawings in themselves.
I see his buildings as artworks, which evoke powerful emotions.
Gehry’s creations give me an opportunity to respond in a different way. As they are some of the most photographed buildings in the world, the last thing I wanted to do was just to photograph another piece of architecture. I see his work as the perfect canvas to express my own interpretations.
How did you personally react to seeing the elements of the buildings up so close?
In my commercial work, the images I capture are about scale and context, and they need to be descriptive. In this series of work however, I found that by moving in close to the building, you really lose that sense of scale; then the meaning does not become about the building in its entirety, but more about the ideas and emotions that the details evoke. From my chosen perspective, you don’t get much idea of what it is, so the image becomes more about the surface and the way the light plays with these surfaces.
By doing this, I am not measuring it against anything, so now I can translate the images into an emotional experience. An experience of stripping way the extraneous elements of these structures, to reveal a purity of form and surface.
I have enhanced the way the light touches various areas within the image, thus revealing them, and throwing other areas into deep shadow thus holding back.
I also relate it to the human form and our protective membrane: skin. The exterior or skin of the structure protects the fragile and delicate inner workings. As humans, we project an image of ourselves, which we allow the world to see; meanwhile, our inner vulnerabilities remain sheathed from prying eyes. I work with the way the light subtly touches the shell of the buildings, to hint at the intricacies of what lies beneath.
How has this exploration formed your subsequent work? Did it make you think about what you do in a different light?
I have always been interested in exploring the interplay between light and shadow, and subsequently, what this conceals and reveals.
Through the beauty of Gehry’s work, and having the opportunity to explore these 2 buildings in Spain, I found a really strong connection and a parallel in what I was wanting to achieve in my own work. Through these creations I was able to explore my own interpretations and bring these into the light.
Evolving Possibilities runs from 4 October to 15 October at Forty Five Downstairs Gallery, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.
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