Triangle, 2001, 120 x 90 cm,
Iris print on archival paper
... it may be every artist´s fate to re-visit their own past works in formulating new ones. ... That is, however much one´s work "develops", there will be a similar sensibility, a similar approach, a similar style and similar themes everything that confers "signature".
My own recent "return" to the sparse terrain that I previously inhabited has ... been driven by a persistent awareness of the omni-presence and over-proliferation of photographic images, giving rise to a periodic iconophobia a sickness whose best antidote is a pictorial cleansing, a purging of visual excess, a reduction of the photographic to a flattened and emptied field. The simplicity of light and colour alone may serve as suitably austere yet engaging subjects (especially when they emerge as a product of the ... procedures and processes of the medium itself), with a passing nod to "abstract" photography ... .
Here, recent works are paired directly with others made twenty or thirty years previously. The earliest, Green Trousers/Red Room (1969), is one of the first pieces that I made specifically as a photograph. It comes from a group of four images taken in a room whose quadrants were painted respectively red, blue, yellow and green, such that when a camera with a standard lens was placed in any corner facing directly outwards, its viewfinder was filled with a monochrome field. ... each of four separate pictures inferred in turn the existence of a whole room decorated in a single colour, whose continuum was broken only by the inclusion of a "foil" with a different chromatic value (in this case a woman, seated on the floor, whose green trousers complement the red surround and her own red coat). By comparison, Panchromatic (2000) also records a room decorated in those same basic colours, although this time two adjacent walls, the floor and ceiling each have their own distinct hue, and can be seen from a single viewpoint. The colours are not identical with their predecessors, however, now corresponding to two (additive and subtractive) systems of reproduction (cyan/magenta/yellow, and red/green/blue). The word "panchromatic" refers to the designation of a black-and-white film that is sensitive to all parts of the visible spectrum, and which is used here to register the largest, central part of the image devoid, of course, of precisely that chromatic completeness which can be rendered on a colour film and is here relegated to the frame-like periphery of a composite whole (the black-and-white picture having been placed congruently over the coloured one, largely concealing it). The two works, the old one and the new one, ... share the device of four colour room decoration, and they do share an interest in the vagaries of depiction, whether through the use of selective framing or the use of selective film stocks.
The most recent work here, The Best Bits (2001), is one of a group of collaborations with another British artist, Jemima Stehli, who is also the model in the picture. The white card she holds largely conceals her body like a screen, but allows her to show off "the best bits" through strategically positioned "windows". Those visible rectangles might also be read as individual "pictures" displayed "on" a white ground, and accordingly bear comparison with a much earlier work, At Six Diverse Locations (1972). Here, six panels each contain a small black-and-white photograph, each with its own caption indicating a location in different sites. The placement of the photographs on their respective boards is unorthodox, however, and some cross-referencing might lead one to suspect that they were sourced from a single, larger print, their position in the original picture-space being mimicked by their position in the present panels .... What [those two works] share is a fragmented and selected view from a possible whole, and an interrogation of ... editorial tactics.
In these notes I have chosen to write specifically in relation to the oldest and newest works on display, spanning a thirty-two year divide. An interest in language and representation, however, is common to all the works here, and that, it seems to me, is their most consistent feature ...
Extract from notes for the exhibition "Early Works/Recent Works" - John Hilliard, January 2002