Tuesday, 20 December 2011



I like the way that Wall's pictures often lie there flat on the screen, not answering back, but prepared to hold a conversation with anyone who has the patience to look at what is (or is not) there. He has the gift of paying genuine attention to his subject, unmarred by condescension or sentimentality. He makes me look at family snaps with a fresh  eye.

 Wall calls his large-scale photographs prose poems (Charles Baudelaire), wanting the viewer to experience, even savour, a picture rather than be confronted with a specific narrative. Digitalisation makes this  possible in new ways. When Yves Klein made his unforgettable Leap IntoThe Void  (see Blog 45 on Ciprian Muresan) he had to use collage... Now photographs can be stretched, compressed, edited and excised. 

This photograph ‘records’ one instant in a quiet suburban garden where nothing very much has been happening.  On the left a ball has been abandoned in the mown grass, and garden implements are stacked up against the shed ready for action.  But we've caught a moment of drama. Did the boy catch his foot as he started to jump? Has a branch broken? Was it a ‘dare?’  And what will happen? Will he manage a soft landing rolling over the lawn or will he hurl headlong onto the concrete path? Perhaps he’ll manage to grab the rope of the swing which will break his fall. Unlike documentary photography, a prose poem allows multiple interpretations. A cool precise picture with a vague, diffuse and moody meaning ratchets up the tension.

But did Wall intend a deeper meaning? Boys have often appeared in art: as young princes, warriors, naked bathers, guides, shepherds. They are inclined to stand there secure in what they’re doing. But this boy’s future is uncertain. We might be witnessing an event which, if it were true, might change the course of several lives. Even if he’s unharmed,  what will become of him? Is Wall reviving the power and portentousness of Allegory, reminding us of ‘the alienation and loneliness of individuals in a globalised civilisation emptied of tradition’? He says 'It's magical to be able to make a picture that imparts a strong aesthetic experience in spite of unprepossessing subject matter. It's much more interesting to conjure something out of nothing'.

The exhibition at The White Cube is of photographs but Wall is best known for his light boxes, which he discovered and perfected as an ideal medium for his work. For a tour round his 2005/6 show at Tate Modern go to tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/jeffwall

1 comment:

  1. This 2-piece set protects mirrors, artwork, glass shelves & doors.These ART/MIRROR BOXES saved our mirrors and made moving easier for us.