Michael Taylor: It looks like photography ...
REFRACTIONS images are left as negatives resembling X Rays, a symbolic gesture towards the interaction of science and art.
Light revealed the invisible.
There are three main groups of glass objects.
(1) glass objects made solely for scientific purposes.
Despite their utility value they also have aesthetic value in their own right.
(2) artifacts made by glass artists from Northern Ireland, Southern France (Biot) and Corsica.
(3) Household glass objects such as glass crystal.
Photographic paper and sunlight provided a primitive method of photography similar to the first photographic exposures. Photograms (camera-less pictures) are an essential aspect of the history of photography. Practitioners include Fox Talbot (the first silver halide photograms), Man Ray (Rayograms) and Moholy-Nagy.
However, in these ‘solargrams’ the images are not chemically developed/fixed, rather they are ephemeral latent images resulting from exposure to direct sunlight. The faint latent images were later scanned on an A4 flatbed scanner to preserve them. Unlike conventional black and white photograms subtle colours are revealed. There is no digital manipulation.
Final prints are huge enlargements of the original images onto archival canvas, thus revealing further details, paper texture and immersing the viewer in light patterns.
The only variables are: paper emulsion, the strength/UV content/timing of sun exposure and movement of the glass objects.
There is simplicity and purity.
Everything begins with an encounter. Art in all its ways of being pursues favourable outcomes not of what is known but of a process of constructing something that counts. Every work of art is similar to something and different from something, offering its vulnerability to be accepted or dismissed on only one of those judgements (regardless weather they are properly constructed or not). Making art thus involves not a mere resilience to the current canon or pursuit of it, rather a wise acceptance that even similarity addressing different persons appears as differences.
The inventions of electricity and photography were not the necessary conditions for the presence of light in visual art, rather they turned it from a result to a cause. Subsequent limitations appeared both like wild outcomes and wisdom how to do the best with the technique.
I hasten to mellow this stoicism by apparent evidence that the same prison surrounds all art, all life ... In Seneca's view some of its chains are wide and made of gold, while others are short and rusty (On Tranquility of Mind):
Honors bind one man, wealth another; nobility oppresses some, humility others; some are held in subjection by an external power, while others obey the tyrant within; banishments keep some in one place, the priesthood others.
Viktor Shklovsky in his “Art as Technique” addressed the reason for art by a robust simile: " Art exists that one may recover the sensation of life"... not what is known but what is felt during the aesthetic experience, during the encounter with a work of art. "
That in turn assumes a subject perceiving an object – as one mode of an encounter. Is an object sufficient and necessary? From the artist's point of view, I.e. from the intention, Shklovsky avoids the thin ice of the object theory by saying
In art, it is our experience of the process of construction that counts, not the finished product.
By accepting the eternal open - endedness of art as a process I am on that thin ice without him. Both, an object and a process are meaningful. On one uncomfortable condition: it calls for valorizing an abiding belief that our every action, including that of an artist, must reflect what every person believes to be good, true and just. There is evidence of art being disliked at one time, and valued at another, being hated by some persons and admired by others. Consequently, what follows lays hold of whatever good I found in Michael Taylor's set of photographs.
The fatal condition of visual art is its visibility. Visibility depends on light. The light, however, is a promiscuous partner. In nature it obeys the laws of the universe. In our practical life it sets the time limits. In visual art it takes on the hues and tones, modulation and emanation as tools, bridging over the real and the observed with the invented. Light has intriguing history in visual art, not just paintings – e.g. Michelangelo and Bernini had a profound love affair with shadows and highlights.
Twentieth century went radical not only to experiment with photography and film but added to the art system new forms: video, performance, installations. These forms have dual identity: the means are also the object.
Most noticeable were the artists who chose to abandon a flat surface, a frame, a pedestal. Moholy-Nagy constructed a working object that would produce projected images just by being allowed to run. His Licht-Machine is often dated in 1930.
Roden Crater is another "machine for light" with the observer being the moving part, and the light coming from the exterior. In his gallery installations the light forges the space I perceive its voluminosity. I cannot see its physical unmovable boundaries. This occurs in the Refractions on a flat surface.
James Turrell rooted visual art in the "observer effect" (1) a sensation of insecure illusion of space losing it under the power of the perceived "truth".
The Observer Effect (2) tells us that the presence of an observer and the act of observation changes that which is being observed. The observer is changed by the act of observation. This is a matter of relationship and position ... Thoughts, feelings and emotions, whether aimless or deliberate, are a somatic cascade of multiple biological events. And it’s this cascade that art somehow taps into. (3)
Difficult art triggers emotions and thoughts that seem useless. Their uselessness is important – it breeds resistance to habitual thought. It may put the observer into a swivet, by urgency of invitation to step out of yesterday's routine. It may enhance the viewers delight at free thinking and a departure from daily routine.
Michael Taylor's series run both these strategies head on with and against monotony. These light -imprints are governed by endless justification of a routine and by endless escapes from it. The elusive delights show off and disappear in a kind of treacherous contract with your sight and viewing angle.
Look too closely – and the significant sensuality falls apart and then your own power to hold on to aesthetic experience is tested. The light and dark appear like corporeal substances bound in a conspiracy to dissolve the first look. What follows is enigmatic. It simultaneously appears like a controlled interaction of man made and mechanical with – what David Smith (1906-1965) imaginatively thought of as – writing in the air.
Michael Taylor's pathway to his current art practice left meaningful marks on Refractions: zoology, computer, design studies finishing in the Master in Fine Art degree. Fire, intense light and choreographed movement insert a tenor of drama, theatre, signaling, mapping – this is not real, it is invented. Is its beauty verifiable? Even if I cannot offer a logical proof, flaunting my aesthetic judgement is not aesthetically neutral. As it is, people choose their aesthetic values reasonably freely. It is a choice, even a blind one is preferable to narrowly politicized judgement.
To sum up:
Taylor's images are holding transitional moment in movement as equivalent to the whole process. A significant risk that a pars pro toto will turn into a fallacy is mitigated by scrupulous interruptions to the chain of all that is possible. That deception is a persuasive case of the terrible beauty experienced when gazing at the universe.
by Dr. Slavka Sverakova