– by Hayley Anschutz
Freerange hosts Slippages, a solo exhibition by artist Lydia Trethewey. With numerous awards under her belt and a true talent for literary and artist expression, Trethewey describes the notion behind her work and how the boundaries between photography and printmaking blur together.
>Where did the works start?
The works in Slippages came out of looking at car travel, and in particular certain experiences that occurred during car travel like daydream. I have a sort of fascination with suburban landscapes that maybe comes from having grown up in the hills. There’s this flatness and limitlessness of the mundane built environment that I find interesting that in the hills is… offset by the beauty and naturalness of the bush. I’m interested in palm trees and fences and cracks in the pavement… I found that when I was driving down in the suburbs, and sort of absorbing the landscape I travelled through, and being imprinted by it, that I had this sensation that went beyond wonder that I could only describe as the sublime. So I came up with this concept, quotidian-sublimity, to describe this sensation, and through my work I open it up and explore it… It sits in between the visible and invisible, or the known and unknown, which is where the name Slippages comes from.
>Why photography and printmaking?
I was always suspicious of photography, because I never had any interest in the technical aspects of cameras and because I didn’t like being removed from the artwork, the way a camera seems to remove you. That black-box thing where you don’t know what goes on inside the device. I liked to get my hands on things. So I started with printmaking, solvent-transfers, where I could use rags and chemicals to influence the image. Photography was like note taking, where I could get detailed images almost instantaneously whilst the car moves down the road. Doing solvent transfers also allowed room for unexpected occurrences, and for me to play with the white space of the paper. I was hoping to find something about invisibility in the image disappearing, or partially disappearing. But I think in this case the invisible is also tactile: it can’t be seen, but it’s felt.
There are types of seeing that involve invisibility.
>Do you think there’s something of a contradiction in making visual art about the invisible?
Maybe. Although I think there are types of seeing that involve invisibility. If I’m experiencing quotidian-sublimity, maybe it influences the way I see. Then there’s this idea of haptic seeing versus optic seeing. Haptic seeing treats the eyes like organs of touch. It acknowledges that the body is involved in seeing, proprioceptively and kinesthetically. So vision isn’t disembodied, and maybe invisibility presses against the body in a way that can be translated visually.
>But you stopped doing solvent transfers and came back to photography
I don’t know that I’d call these works photography. They’re certainly photographic, but they arose somewhere in the space of photography and printmaking, explorations with solvent. Photochemical maybe. I call them solvent washes, because I think to call them photographs misses too much of what they are.
>You seem to have a problem with the idea of making photographs
I don’t have a problem with photography, but maybe some of the history of it. Historically photography has been tied to notions of reality and reproduction; the photograph records something that is ‘out there’ and the camera becomes a sort of pointing device… I find it very restrictive, and prescriptive because it seems to always mean that the photograph is about time, lost time, memory and ephemerality, and irretrievability. Which are all interesting subjects for art but not really what I’m into. I wanted photography to do something different, to be able to be something different. The works in Slippages are somewhere between photography and something else.
>Would you say they are abstract?
I wouldn’t necessarily call them ‘abstract’ but maybe they are, and maybe I’m just uncomfortable with the term because it’s like it’s borrowed from painting. I’m wary of talking about photographs in terms of how they are or aren’t like paintings. The language around early photography is littered with that sort of thing: “drawing with light” and such. There have been more than a few occasions when people have seen my works and mistook them for paintings, or discussed the way that they’re painterly. And for me they’re not really painterly, because making them isn’t at all like making a painting. It’s kind of the opposite, working backwards towards blankness, because if I use too much solvent I get left with a white surface.
‘Slippages’ Opens Friday 22nd April, 6- 8pm.
Show runs from Sat Apr 23rd until Tue Apr 26.
Gallery times: 11am – 5pm daily.
Don’t let it slip your mind.
Photo credits: Lydia Trethewey