STATE OF CHANGE

An exhibition by Emilio Cresciani

For some ten years Emilio has been exploring our society’s industrial underbelly – its abandoned factories, waste dumps, road works – the metaphorical ‘dark matter’ of contemporary life. In each overlooked or unlovely subject he has sought to find a form of beauty. Revealing this beauty has become his preferred way of asking us to pay attention, to think again. The photographs in this exhibition, though they look like nothing Cresciani has produced until now, are in this vein. State of Change is a development on what has gone before, but it is also a significant departure. The elemental nature of the subject matter and the intimate affinity of the work’s ideas with its processes and materials are both new.

 

This PhotoAccess Dark Matter residency, awarded before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, could easily have come off the rails at that point. When the NSW/ACT border closed, Cresciani’s darkroom access went with it – for a time at least. Happily, it turned out that the interruption was productive. It gave rise to a second body of photographs, and (courtesy of an Instagram post) to my favourite mental image of Cresciani at work, standing over a huge, immaculate block of ice, hammer in hand.

 

Its companion image would have to be the artist in the PhotoAccess darkroom (he has driven there from Sydney with an Esky full of ice), at work on this project. I imagine him alone – it is the weekend, everyone else is off somewhere – in the semi-darkness. There’s a ventilator humming, water running, the smell of fixer; he probably has music playing. These are familiar, almost homely surroundings to anyone who’s ever worked in any darkroom, anywhere. 

 

He is making photograms. The earliest form of photography, a photogram is the medium distilled into its purest form. The requirements are simple – an object, a photosensitive surface, light for making the exposure, some chemistry, water. Each image is unique, essentially unrepeatable. The Oxford Companion to the Photographhelpfully explains that their uniqueness lends photograms something of the cachet of painting, and this is the reason why artists like to make them. But that is to miss the point: they are photography in its closest possible relationship with its subject matter. We are talking real physical intimacy here, object and paper touching one another. However that’s not all: as light penetrates each translucent object, it may – as happens here – capture and record qualities that the eye does not see. Photograms are true to their subject in ways that conventional photos can only dream of.   

 

Cresciani’s photograms record in minute detail what happens on photographic paper as ice melts. The eye, though, is not satisfied with this pedestrian interpretation: his images seem to suggest so much more.  They invite the mind to roam. These shapes could be maps, clusters of rocky outcrops fringed by beaches, islets in a dark sea. In some the chunks of ice appear to intersect, overlap. In those there is a sense of something powerfully in flux, as when sea ice breaks up or ice sheets topple into the sea.

 

A second series of images, presented here on light boxes, explores melting ice from the perspective of a camera’s close-up lens. (How strange that the moment of photographic capture, routinely called ‘freezing’, here becomes its opposite – melting.) Peering into the depths of ice as it melts reveals an alternate view of the same phenomenon, not competing but complementary. With no stable point to anchor the eye, these images are, as much as anything else, about uncertainty and flux. 

 

As ice sheets melt and permafrost thaws, things we never thought to see are appearing: the bodies of long-dead mountaineers; a ‘lost’ mountain pass littered with Viking artefacts; five islands in the Arctic Ocean; a ‘new’ island in Antarctica. I am reminded here that Covid-19 has cast us into a new world that was unthinkable less than a year ago. In this light, it would be no surprise to find the mind taking another turn and these photograms starting to read as vastly enlarged microorganisms, harmful pathogens released by a warming earth.

 

There may be no more dramatic or awe-inspiring vision of global warming than a massive ice sheet collapsing (unless it’s a towering wall of flames against an orange sky), and those photographs are deservedly cemented in our visual memory. Viewing Cresciani’s images is a quieter, more intimate, less familiar experience. They visually evoke the process of ice melting in new ways: as wafer thin moments in time; in extreme close up; as areas of diffused and refracted light. Abstractly beautiful, they do not tell us what to think, but the invitation to reflect is there – proffered not through spectacle, but by way of attachment to the mysterious, irreplaceable world they spring from. 

 

Anne Ferran

  

Watch to opening speeches below, click to play.

List of Works

PHOTOGRAMS  ON ICE

  1. Emilio Cresciani, On Ice #1, 2020, gelatin silver photogram, 50.8cm x 40.6, Edition of 1, framed, $490 

  2. Emilio Cresciani, On Ice #2, 2020, gelatin silver photogram, 50.8cm x 40.6, Edition of 1, framed, $490 

  3. Emilio Cresciani, On Ice #3, 2020, gelatin silver photogram, 50.8cm x 40.6, Edition of 1, framed, $490  

  4. Emilio Cresciani, On Ice #4, 2020, gelatin silver photogram, 50.8cm x 40.6, Edition of 1, framed, $490 

  5. Emilio Cresciani, On Ice #5, 2020, gelatin silver photogram, 50.8cm x 40.6, Edition of 1, framed, $490  

  6. Emilio Cresciani, On Ice #6, 2020, gelatin silver photogram, 50.8cm x 40.6, Edition of 1, framed, $490   

 

LIGHTBOXES 

  1. Emilio Cresciani, Breaking of Ice #1, 2020, duratran, 42 x 30cm, Edition of 3 + AP,  framed, $590  

  2. Emilio Cresciani, Breaking of Ice #3, 2020, duratran, 42 x 30cm, Edition of 3 + AP, framed, $590   

  3. Emilio Cresciani, Breaking of Ice #4, 2020, duratran, 42 x 30cm, Edition of 3 + APframed, $590 

  4. Emilio Cresciani, Breaking of Ice #6, 2020, duratran, 42 x 30cm, Edition of 3 + APframed, $590  

  5. Emilio Cresciani, Breaking of Ice #9, 2020, duratran, 42 x 30cm, Edition of 3 + APframed, $590  

 

DURACLEARS  

  1. Changing of Ice #1, 2020, duraclear, 76 x 56cm Edition of 3 + AP, framed, $550

  2. Changing of Ice #2, 2020, duraclear, 76 x 56cm Edition of 3 + AP, framed, $550

  3. Changing of Ice #3, 2020, duraclear, 76 x 56cm Edition of 3 + AP, framed, $550

  4. Changing of Ice #4, 2020, duraclear, 76 x 56cm Edition of 3 + AP, framed, $550

  5. Changing of Ice #5, 2020, duraclear, 76 x 56cm Edition of 3 + AP, framed, $550