The sequence of motifs in Bianca Brunner’s exhibition The Feeling Of Things was easily identifiable. Ten photographs from three series (all 2014) showed abstracted, rhomboid planes of colour (Harlequin); a white diagonal stick placed against trees (Stick) and outlines of a thicket in the dark (Night). With their conspicuous formalism the works might seem banal. But as soon as one questioned the processes and subjects of the photographs, things quickly become mysterious; the works are not so self-evident after all.
Guided by an interest in surfaces, Brunner uses an analogue large-format camera to photograph particular objects (a wooden shed) and simple arrangements of materials (fabric, oil and water, cardboard). These situations subsequently reveal themselves as constructed. For the Harlequin series, whose fluid pink and yellow rhombuses look at first glance like watercolours, the artist photographed arrangements of linen wall hangings in her studio. Details become noticeable such as the varying opacity of the rhombi – stains left by the dying process – and the fabric’s organic forms, such as the small creases that lend it a three-dimensional structure. These details subtly hint at the elaborate procedure used by the artist, in which releasing the shutter is just one step of many. The rhombi are first designed in miniature sketches, then rea-lized as wall-filling temporary compositions that survive only in the photographs. The white wood cladding of the studio wall, against which the fabric was hung, is detectable in the vertical grooves, situating the scene in a space. Although this suggests a sense of proportion, the linens’ actual dimensions remain vague.
In the small-format series Stick, a line neatly traverses black and white shots of dense foliage. The white of the abstract geometrical form stands out clearly against its organic surroundings like something drawn in afterward on the surface of the print. But this foreign body ends in the leaves, which anchors it in the pictorial space and keeps it in a perplexing state of suspension between flatness and three-dimensionality. In the case of Stick – made using a white stick in a forest which left behind an overexposed void – the series’ title bears a documentary weight. In the Night series the opposite is the case. These supposed ‘nocturnal shots’ of a forest were taken during the day using the cinematic day-for-night technique which allows footage shot in daylight to take on the appearance of darkness. Once again, Brunner’s tricks can only be detected in a detail: scattered points of reflected light that betray the presence of sunlight. The effect is disconcerting: everything pushes towards the surface of the picture and looks strangely flat. In Brunner’s pictures then, the near and far, flat and three-dimensional, the illusory and the indexical (the ‘this is how it was’ cited by Roland Barthes in his 1980 Camera Lucida) all collapse.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell