SHADOW CATCHERS EXHIBITION
Born Lennep (Germany), 1937
Floris Neusüss has dedicated his whole career to extending the practice, study and teaching of the photogram. Alongside his work as an artist, he is known as an influential writer and teacher on camera-less photography.
Neusüss brought renewed ambition to the photogram process, in both scale and visual treatment, with the Körperfotogramms (or whole-body photograms) that he first exhibited in the 1960s. Since that time, he has consistently explored the photogram’s numerous technical, conceptual and visual possibilities.
His works often deal in opposites: black and white, shadow and light, movement and stillness, presence and absence, and in the translation of three dimensions into two. By removing objects from their physical context, Neusüss encourages the viewer to contemplate the essence of form. He creates a feeling of surreal detachment, a sense of disengagement from time and the physical world. Collectively, his images explore themes of mythology, history, nature and the subconscious.
Here, the varying proximity of parts of the body to the paper has created sharper or softer outlines. Where the model’s hands were in contact with the paper, the outline is clear. Where parts of the body, such as the head, were further away, it is blurred.
Neusüss’s art often acknowledges that the making of each unique photogram is a kind of performance. In this installation piece, a chair stands on a sheet of photographic paper that retains the shadow of a person now absent from the seat. The playful title becomes increasingly poignant as each year passes.
The bodies in Neusüss’s ‘whole-body photograms’ appear to leap or float, as though caught in space, implying dreams of flight or nightmares of falling. Here, an adult figure adopts a foetal position silhouetted against vague indications of an interior. Neusüss’s shadowy figures often suggest an underlying symbolic narrative of sensuality, fertility, dreams or the subconscious.
Since 2000 Neusüss has been making photograms of sculpture in various museum collections. In this work, overlapping double exposures – both positive and negative – create multiple views of Canova’s sculpture of Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth. These sculpture photograms speak of artists’ enduring fascination with animate bodily forms and how they can be transformed into idealised inanimate imaginings.
Sometimes, the abstract qualities of Neusüss’s work are the result of natural forces. The image shown here was created by placing photographic paper in a garden at night during a thunderstorm, and letting lightning expose the paper.