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Silentium Silva © Martin Everett

Silentium Silva © Martin Everett

Exploring narratives & abstraction in Polaroid

Martin Everett’s images engender a ‘powerful atmosphere and sense of place, of landscape and memory, one that is consistently infused with the desire, uncertainty and expectation associated with darkness and the unseen.’ HOT’s Xaverine Bates asked him more about his work, now showing as part of Errors of the Divine at Electro for Coastal Currents.

Silva (Latin, n; forest, wood, growth),
Silentium (Latin, n; silence, of quiet repose, stillness, obscurity)

This work looks at exploring the tension between the narrative tendencies and the abstract possibilities of photography. Ignoring many of the descriptive and representational capabilities of the camera and by choosing to employ Polaroids as the format, these images have been produced at night and in doing so, build the work around the drama between what the image might reveal and what it might conceal. The work tends to go against the recent trend in photography that has stressed everyday subject matter and a realist approach to the world, instead the Polaroids create spatial plays and ambiguities that often draw attention to the material nature of the photograph as an object, rather than the receding, illusory space behind the picture plane. The images generate a powerful atmosphere and sense of place, of landscape and memory, one that is consistently infused with the desire, uncertainty and expectation associated with darkness and the unseen. Work was made over a twelve-month period of night walks, many of which were through the wooded areas surrounding the decimated geo-political ordinance, which suffices for the Link Road.

Silentium Silva © Martin Everett

XB: How interwoven do you believe memory to be with certain landscapes? Which do you envisage first, the event or its location?
Memory is inexplicably linked to landscape through the conscious and unconscious, real and imagined and primarily historical timelines. With this new body of work the concept came together and was born out a need  to cut free from the restraints of rigorously, structured and melancholy mechanical images and produce something more organic. Thus once conceived, the event and location became one collision of activity. A performance if you like, for each image is clearly only one moment within an overall process of familiarisation with the environment. Through representing land as a particular type of landscape, or environment, the images contribute to reaffirming as well as challenging perceptions of space and place around us.

Tell me more about “the desire, uncertainty and expectation associated with darkness and the unseen.” How much does this perspective permeate your work?
Previously my work has concentrated on the darker, emotional side of domestic landscapes and interiors. Developing a very precise process for image making, either at night or with minimal available light, there was always an intuitive gamble being played out between what my mind was visually interpreting and what the device (camera) was capturing. By moving from the long exposures of a large film camera to the immediacy of a Polaroid camera essentially means you are taken out of you comfort zone, and this perspective was both frightening and exciting, like the dark itself. This then becomes an experiment in putting sublime forces/images up against each other in an investigation into an updated romanticism of the geography. How we look and what we see are in question as the Polaroid’s informality, limited depth of field and consequent priority of content over form interrupt accustomed viewing experiences as nature defies organised geometry.

Is an understanding and/or experience of the unseen essential in order to make powerful images & do you think a cognizance of madness/(in)sanity is needed to create work that is fully human in all its guises? 

Silentium Silva © Martin Everett

Silentium Silva © Martin Everett

There is the unseen and, simply, what we have not seen before. We are all influenced by Western aesthetic; notions of the ‘pleasing’ picture are hegemonically sedimented. Photographers have to consciously adjust or refuse pre-existing aesthetic modes if the traditional landscape pictorial is to be critiqued, which in itself is a form of madness. Hence, factors such as biography, social history and regional circumstance are as influential as gender in respect of attitudes to and ways of creating work.

Do you see your work as embodying a latent sadness? Does your personal and emotional life dictate your artistic direction?
Definitely – our sense of time as human beings is limited but these landscapes are spread over a cosmic or geological perception of time. Some of the trees are hundreds of years old; they bear with them the memory of all previous events and at the same time keep a certain silence and are impenetrable. I suppose the work is attempting to make the landscape unravel, not in an overtly dramatic way, but to somehow reveal its secrets and I think that the images create a tension between a sense of possible impending disaster and the idyllic pastoral beauty of the place. Places in themselves may reveal very little of their past especially as vegetation comes to mask historical traces. But the suggestion that nature literally absorbs history through the soil connects with the idea of a collective unconscious. The Polaroids deploy pictorial tradition and archetypal response in order to support a claim that these sites are of particular significance as they represent the current displacement of the area and the possible horror of future histories.

Would you say your work was covertly political? You mention that your night walks took place at the Link Road site – how did these experiences shape your views on environmental activism and politics?

Silentium Silva © Martin Everett

Mostly, yes, but not all were, and this I think goes back to an earlier question about event/location. As the project began to take shape, walking back and forth through wooded areas and marshland at night, the need to express something of the conflict and political complexities of the region and the impact of this on people as individuals or communities as well as wildlife, was not at the forefront of my intentions. Firstly, I was concentrating on the Polaroids and secondly, at night the area has a vastly different quality to it, like a Caspar David Friedrich painting. Yet by day resembles a Paul Nash WW1 landscape. The work is sympathetically harnessed to the location and records and re-orders its pastoral heritage, and as environmentalism is now central to the contemporary political agenda some may wish to see these as political pieces. My Father was a senior civil servant in the Department of Transport in the late ’70s and early ’80s and was all too aware of government’s thirst to build on the land. Go and judge for yourself.

Photographs printed on photo-matte archival media 90 x 112cm

Martin Everett b. 1964, Essex, MA Fine Art Photography, UCA Rochester 2007, PhD Visual Cultural Studies, Queen Mary University, London 2013

Martin’s work is showing at Errors of the Divine at Electro, Seaside Road,
St Leonards TN38 0AL:
Thurs 28 Aug–Sun 31 Aug & Thurs 4–Sun 7 Sep, 12noon–5pm

Tom Banks, Alex Drawbridge, Paco de Quesada, Martin Everett and Anne Parfitt show new and original painting, digital prints, photography and sculpture. A group of contemporary artists who have exhibited internationally.

Contact: Martin Everett

07957 147139

Posted 15:34 Wednesday, Sep 3, 2014 In: Photography

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