– Dark Matter
Opening: Saturday 24 February, 2018. 5-9 pm
Exhibition: 24.02 – 15.04.2018
NEXT DOOR |
Leopoldstraat 55 - 2000 Antwerp
It is with great pleasure that we would like to introduce British photographer Phil Griffin’s second solo exhibition. The presentation of this new series of works: Dark Matter will take place in our NEXT DOOR space.
“What colour are you in the dark? A simple but somehow complex beginning, a question designed to open up a conversation on the nature of man and his relationship to colour, dark and light but also to throw us off balance. And so we began. The men were then asked to describe colours for the way they feel about identity and key human emotions – Love, Shame, Hope, Fear.”
Phil Griffin photographs man in an unorthodox way and looks for an intense relationship with his subject. For his new series Dark Matter he chose 13 men with different backgrounds with whom he built a very strong personal relationship throughout the creative process. By obtaining a deeper background knowledge of the subject before shooting, a bond of trust is created which goes beyond the superficial. Sometimes month-long conversations took place before Phil decided to photograph someone and when. By unforcedly obligating the subjects to look deeper into themselves he attempts to show the invisible power, imagination and beauty which lies in all of us. The strong bond of trust enables the subjects to open up more. Phil Griffin notices that because of this, emotions rise up that were formerly invisible to themselves and people around them.
“Many times in this process I was frightened by this unmasking. The subjects became emotional or elated, angry or aroused, chaotic or even Christ-like. This was a catharsis of colour in a way. Often the colours changed as we discussed the feeling they had about the background, the comfort (or discomfort) the subject felt with the touch of my hand or the temperature of the paint. The dark matter was revealed as the body and emotion of each subject responded to the colours we applied to their skin. A transformation occurred.”
The origin of this exhibition lies in examining what colour means and what it represents in our current society. The opposition of colours we are confronted with on a daily basis like skin colour, instinctively causes a separation. The aspect ‘colour’ is the base of this series of new works. Every subject was asked to think about what colour related the most to beauty. By using this colour throughout the whole decor of the shoot, the subject suddenly found himself in a newly created landscape. The beauty was, as it were, taken out of the subconscious of the subject and made visible.
“On every portrait the energy of the room changed, as the subject seemed to transcend the conscious self and surrender to their own dark matter. I had to force myself to act as a witness, a supporter and sometimes a gentle guide as each man explored the darkness they found. Always with this series I have felt I was an explorer, a voyeur, a confessor and sometimes a parent…”
Phil Griffin awakens a lot of emotions in these works and portrays man’s true beauty in a subtle and poetic way. The spectator isn’t just watching a photograph or an image, but a trace of a whole story and performance which took place between the subjects and the artist. In this way we read these 18 different pictures more like an installation rather than individual works, yet it is remarkable how every picture exudes a different energy through it’s attitude and use of colour. Phil Griffin is inspired more by painters like Francis Bacon than by photographers. The marrying of the painter’s eye with the photographer’s medium makes the work utterly unique and innovative.
“I had to ask myself – is it even possible to reduce perception of identity to idea of color as a trigger to a real physical feeling? It soon leads me back to Rothko and to Martin Heidegger and the nature of being. It was not as simple as I hoped. But then ‘Self’ is never simple. I wanted to find the dark matter through the actual observation of a man’s changing state rather than by trying to distinguish between the act of consciousness and the metaphysical problem of establishing perceived being. I wanted to feel with them, not make them feel for me. So I asked: what colour is your soul, your heart, your shame or anger, your hope?”
Phil Griffin was inspired for this new series by the physicist Vera Rubin who discovered the origin of dark matter in the universe. This dark matter is invisible even though more than 27% of the universe consists of dark matter and only 5% is visible. It is this dark matter that allows for the creation of solar systems and keeps them in balance. Dark matter is the mysterious force that makes life-emerging conditions possible. The fact that this was discovered by a woman is of cours a coincidence, but nonetheless very telling and symbolic. Phil Griffin has let this theory influence himself to determine his way of working for this new exhibition. He used a new way of communicating with his subjects, without restrictions, without words, based on an instinctively sensing colours and on trust.
“To find a church on a man’s skin is perhaps the ultimate function of all religion. I am honoured and humbled that these men allowed their bodies to be my canvas and through them I feel I learned much of myself and got to witness a kind of humanity I always hoped to see. As the paint dried and cracked and the days of exploration unfolded, the beauty of each new layer of honesty seemed to level ideas of time and being, it seemed to roll back years and the fears until before me I saw my 10 year old self in every man and in every canvas. And I am less afraid. I remain cautious of standing too long in those shadows, but now inside that pitch black nothing, I am learning to see the potential of light in everything.”
Phil Griffin showed his visual art for the first time in 2016 with the Surrender exhibition, a project of 40 photographs and one documentary about the Mount Olympus project of Troubleyn/Jan Fabre. The movie Surrender was shown in theatres and cinema in Rome, Florence, Bologna, Napels, but also in Antwerp, Brussels, Paris, Madrid and Seville. Future exhibitions are planned in Moscow and New York.
Phil Griffin’s work is part of The Artist/Knight exhibition in the castle of Gaasbeek, Brussels, curated by Joanna de Vos (July 11th – November 5th 2017). In the spring of 2018 one of his works will be inaugurated at the Troubleyn theatre to become a permanent part of the building’s famous art collection.