Friday, April 24, 2015

The Higgins explosion


Higgins, ANU Gallery installation view, 2015
It's by small increments - tiny repeated actions and reactions - that the chemistry of the analog darkroom works its magic on photographic paper, but the sum of it can be of astonishing beauty.  If you could make an animated film of the process and run it back, it might look something like Chemical Potential: A Darkroom Upside Down, Matt Higgins' wonderful, compendious new show which ran at the Australian National University in Canberra this past March.  He filled the ANU Art Gallery's hangar-sized space with 99 pieces, just one short of the shameless triple digits possibly out of concern for our senses.  He needn't have bothered: just one of his pictures nearly stretches to the limit what we can absorb and understand of the mysteries of emulsion (see previous posts on his work here and here).
Higgins, ANU Gallery installation view, 2015
Higgins, ANU Gallery installation view, 2015
Higgins, ANU Gallery installation view, 2015
Higgins, ANU Gallery installation view, 2015

Higgins, ANU Gallery installation view, 2015

These works are but a sampling of what Matt has done in the period 2011-2015 and cover most of his favorite chemigramic techniques: acrylic resists, repeated motifs with variations, calculated use of safelight for the control of whites and blacks.  Paper sizes range from 8 x 10" to 20 x 24".  The physical labor to produce this output alone is impressive and reminds us acutely of the scale of the vast land he is from.  He's a non-stop working dervish, driven only by the dream of the very next chemigram - and the one after that, and wherever his imagination and hands may take him with it.  A couple of years ago he spent a few weeks with us in New York and we never saw him except for meal breaks, so intense was his focus.  He had barricaded himself in the darkroom.

A respite is in order.  He and Denise Ferris will be conducting a workshop in Physical Photography (how can you not love that title?) at Penland in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, USA, June 7 - 19.  It's been sold out and there's a significant waiting list.  Matt's a rock star of the chemigram world.  You may want to get yourself there all the same and hang out, it should be worth it.

 

4 comments:

  1. Matt's exhibition looks absolutely amazing. I also love the simplicity and the starkness of the installation. All in all, it has the austerity and the striking pictorial beauty of a gothic cathedral (Siena's comes to mind).

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    1. It's the classicism of layout and pictures together that impressed me most, as perhaps it did for you, which is why I wanted to use all those installation views. And the Siena Cathedral? Here I had to refresh old memories. Pisano's pulpit scene of the Last Judgment, subtitled The Elect, comes closest to my feelings now, and I wish we could show it in this comment space. In the year 1265, through some divine guidance, could Pisano have foreseen Matt Higgins?

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  2. We need to see this guy's stuff in New York. You've been teasing us on the blog with it for too long. How about it?

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    1. I agree. But we dream and do what we can.

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