Exhibition Michal Šúr-
I wrote to Michal Šúr to ask whether I could use his photography on my blog, he very kindly agreed and sent me several low resolutions of the images I requested.
Whilst in Scotland I visited the artist town, Kircudbright. Everywhere you look in that town an art gallery beckons, from the large town hall, the quaint harbour cottage gallery or the magnificent Broughton House the home of E.A Hornel one of the Glasgow Boys ( a group of around twenty artists who joined forces in the 1880’s to challenge the Landscape paintings of Victorian times and create natural inspired paintings with definition, clarity and an appreciation of the natural world) There is also the Tollbooth gallery which is where I headed. I was interested in the exhibition of Infrared Black and white photography by Michal Šúr.
Whilst there I recorded an audio on my phone with my thoughts and feelings of the photographs, when I got home I transcribed them. I found it helpful to do this as at first it was a just a general review but the more I spoke I saw repetition, harmony and deeper meanings of his work. Though not always practical to speak in galleries I found this influenced my study more.
Michal Šúr is a self taught photographer from Slovakia. He began by studying a degree in forestry then moved to the UK to work as a nature conservationist. At first he worked with black and white, colour negative film, transparency and digital photography. Šúr wrote on his website, “Switching to digital in 2009 allowed me to start with infra-red B&W photography, something that fascinated me long before the arrival of digital medium but was not affordable. Over the past few years I have gradually moved away from colour wildlife and nature photography to infra-red B&W photography”
This specific exhibition was on his infrared photography of the Isle of Islay, the Southernly island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Aptly known as the Queen of the Hebrides. It has over 3,000 inhabitants but you would not be aware of it from Šúr’s photography. Man made elements are incorporated throughout, infused with nature but that is the only element of human contact, almost as though it is a wasteland where man no longer lives. It reminds me of the desolation of the landscape that might be seen after armegeddon. In that respect it almost has a ghostly feel about it. The silence, the emptiness. This is primarily to do with the infrared element. It transforms the landscape into something reminiscent of winter. The more you look though you see the surrealism of it, the white snow isn’t actually snow but perfectly frozen grass blades, frozen in the photo. It creates a sublime distortion of reality.
There was a leaflet about Šúr with information about his background, motivation for photography and I especially liked the paragraph that said he, “Liked to use long exposures to enhance the movement in the environment and to smooth the motion of water and clouds and blur the foliage and the wind but keep the rocks standing motionless.” I feel personally that it is a poignant tribute to nature and how time has always been. Trees grow but rocks stay still. And this is the most important element of his photography. The long exposure works beautifully, the top half of the tree becomes a gentle blur, like a charcoal drawing that someone has smudged. The harmony of juxtaposition of man made elements and nature. We can see the movement in the grasses or the trees, a gentle blur but time has stood still with the monuments solid and fortified. Not all of his series feature man made elements but of those in the gallery most of them did.
Many of his images appear to have been shot in a similar composition, straight on, sending a ripple of harmony through all the images linking them together as one, yet allowing each to have an individual character. In Level One my tutor told me the importance of images appearing in a set. The infrared and long exposure movement is recurrent throughout but it’s nice to see one or two that stray from the collection, the low angle shot of a building and the stunning shots of the tree canopy giving one the feeling of tilting their head back to see the splendour of the sky above them. I bought two postcards, one featuring a tree with a long exposure blur and the other of a high angle shot with the trees towering over you.
One thing I was intrigued by was the use of titles. In the book ‘Behind the Image’ by Anna Fox and Natasha Caruna they impress the importance of a title. It can essentially make or break an image. Šúr uses very simplistic titles such as Oak Tree, Two Beech Trees which at first may seem unimaginative but in actual fact I feel through the title it is itself in harmony with the stark landscape. This allows the viewer to formulate their own opinions and emotions without being swayed by outside elements such as the title.
I left the exhibition feeling like I’d been exposed to a beautiful world that only the viewers of the exhibition and Michal Šúr himself could see. I came across a comment in the visitor book that inspired me and summed up the whole exhibition, “It’s nice to see images with black and white that you can’t see with the human eye.” It’s one way of looking at things, seeing a world that will always be invisible to the naked human eye allowed to appear just for a moment, frozen in time in a photograph.
Does a title immediately change the viewers perception? If a photo is called silent does this immediately generate a feeling of stillness, a tree lost in a mist, an infrared dramatic sky. What if that photo was called Loud, would that therefore create a loud feeling? Does the title interfere or inspire the feelings felt by the viewer.
As Ansel Adam said”“To try to describe your work is dangerous because it puts between you and living images a forced interpretation”.”
(Throughout this learning log whenever I come across a point that interests me or creates questions I will indicate it with a bold thought–
I spoke to the two women at reception about the gallery and how I was gathering together information for my degree. They kindly gave me many art brochures, leaflets and magazines to further help me recommending the best exhibitions to go to next which I have included in my Landscape Journal scrapbook.