Inspired by a mixture of western and oriental philosophies, the OpenWalls Arles 2020 winner’s conceptual series conjures a dreamlike world that defies logic
OpenWalls Arles is an international photography award exhibiting contemporary work in historic locations around the world. The 2020 edition is now on show at Galerie Huit Arles until 27 September
“My personal photography practice does not involve chasing subjects or themes, but the other way around,” says Andrei Farcasanu. One of two series winners of the OpenWalls Arles 2020 ‘Growth’ category, the Romanian-born photographer practices darkroom experimentation to produce minimalist hand-made lith prints, all of them small enough to sit in the palm of your hand. “I just let myself soak up what’s happening around me in my everyday life, and then I press the button,” he continues. “Like taking photographic notes.” In most cases, the artist will organise his images into series only afterwards — sometimes years later.
While Farcasanu considers the concept of his images to be their “soul”, he deems their “bodies” — their physical manifestation in the world — just as important. A photograph is “ready,” he says, “only when it starts to exist as an object on its own” — and finding the right form is both a delicate and personal process. He takes great care in the finishing, texture, size and exhibition method of his images, working with archival fiber-based papers and procedures to handcraft each print himself. The result is an enchantingly minimalist oeuvre of black and white works, imbued with seemingly infinite nuances of grey; each creation barely bigger than a matchbox.
Timeless Interventions, Farcasanu’s winning project (now on show at Galerie Huit Arles), is, broadly speaking, a meditation on time and the concept of the present. Drawing on the metaphysical philosophies of thinkers from Augustine of Hippo in the 5th century to Immanuel Kant and Albert Einstein, Farcasanu’s starting point was the notion of time as a linear continuum of present moments: the idea that we cannot experience the past or the future, but only what is contained in a single, momentary present. Challenging the notion of photography as a means of “freezing” the present — of rendering images as mementos of events that have already happened — the Barcelona-based photographer seeks to invoke a departure from real time: a dreamlike world that defies logic; a collection of photographs that is both still and flowing at once.
The artist’s inspiration can be traced across multiple disciplines, spanning impressionist and expressionist painting to Eastern European art and philosophy. Oriental conceptions of life also underscore his work; in particular, Śūnyatā, or emptiness — the Buddhist state of meditation whereby the mind is emptied (or “emancipated”) in order to more clearly experience consciousness and the world. The sheer peacefulness of Timeless Interventions — the images’ small sizes and ambivalent messages — implores the viewer to draw closer; to slow down, study the details, and exit the confines of the present.
Aesthetically resonant of Michael Kenna, Timeless Interventions evades conclusion, whispering of dreams, memory, reflection, introspection. Crucially, the artist has no interest in mirroring or conjuring reality, instead interpreting and representing the world through his own personal filters — scratching at dichotomies of real versus unreal, external form versus the essence of things, representation versus presentation; the metaphysical nature of life in general.
“The places, spaces and objects represent an awareness of the feeling given, at the level of perception, by that moment, light or ambience,” Farcasanu explains. “It is a form of knowledge and investigation; a visual poetry.” A language in and of itself.