The flash of light instantly captured by the lens of the camera, the slight blur turning upside-down the whole imagination, the sophisticated twist of the vague outline – all these factors make the works of Uta Barth simply stand out among the other contemporary geniuses of photography.
Born in 1958 in Germany, Uta lives and creates in Los-Angeles now. Being the Bachelor of Arts and having become the professor in the University of California, like nobody else she knows what message photography can bear (Uta Barth). Numerous exhibitions dating back from 1990’s have proved that her unusual vision of the world is here to stay. The one that brought her the world-wide recognition was ‘Grounds and Fields’, a series of blurred pictures that represent in an odd way rather mundane and everyday things: the couple walking down the street, the pictures on the wall or simply the flash of light shapeless but magnetic.
Imaginary simplicity which hides the deep sense behind its distinct lines on one kind of pictures and clearly seen shapeless shadows on another has attracted my attention. The more you take a good look at all of them, the more images and information you see. Uta Barth’s works are deprived of clearness, perfectly outlined forms and shapes and downright message conveyed to the one who perceives. In other words, all those features that we are used to see in the usual, clear things which surround us in our everyday life. What is the purpose of all this? To put us into confusion or get side-tracked? Not at all. The world around us has become so customary that we perceive it as something that is to be taken for granted. On the other hand, we are accustomed to seeing and shooting photographs of something specified - a person, an object, something. In fact, for most of us the subject of the photograph is the reason to make a photo. We make photos of a tree, of a face, of a kitten or a flower. We expect to see something that is familiar to our mind and imagination. (Crary, Jonathan, Russell Ferguson and Holly Myers) But Uta’s works are aimed to make us see beyond the picture. The act that she would describe with the words of Zen Koan: ‘Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees’. (Uta Barth) In other words, not the captured object itself is important, but the essence of it. With the reference to all previously said, I would like to rest your attention on several works, which captured my imagination the most. None of them has its own title, but they refer to the series of pictures united by the single idea.
The first one is a part of the series called ‘The long now’. The vivid reddish colours have formed a clearly shaped circle. Actually it is the odd combination of stream of light. The circle reminds me of a fragile bubble ready to burst out every moment. Strangely enough, this photograph is not blurred, as most of Uta’s works. On the contrary, two main parts of the picture can be clearly distinguished: this ‘bubble’ of light and the window with an old wooden frame, which became the special characteristic of some country house in the quiet rural area. A bit unusual, to my mind, palette of reddish colours shows that the image was obviously captured at sunset, when the sun acquires this strong crimson rainbow. The stream of red light is fractured by the glass. That is why we are able to see those vivid tints of red. Prevailing red colour holds our attention and creates this famous magnetic effect of Uta.
The next picture can also hardly be called blurred and unshaped. It does not have the title of its own. Let’s call it ‘A vase and the keys’. Simplicity is the first word which came to my mind. Nothing can be simpler than a bunch of keys, a vase with freshly cut flowers and a piece of table cloth with the vividly drawn black line. Everything is so explicit, so clear, so understandable that brings to the thought about whether this simplicity is illusive. One element at this picture should be removed, to my mind. This element is the keys. White table cloth with glass vase and freshly cut young flowers create the vision of lightness, of purity, of spring. That black line crossed on the cloth makes the picture more realistic, more attached to life, everyday life. This line creates the vision of the completed picture. But a bunch of keys adds the element of something totally mundane and materialistic. Uta Barth would not be herself without being able to hide some food for contemplation behind this imaginary simplicity.
The picture from the series ‘The long now’
‘A vase and the keys’
Crary, Jonathan, Russell Ferguson and Holly Myers. Uta Barth: The Long Now. Artbook. 8 Oct. 2012. <http://www.artbook.com/9780980024241.html>
Uta Barth. Utata Tribal Photography. 8 Oct. 2012 Uta Barth. Art Institute Chicago. 8 Oct. 2012 <http://www.artic.edu/exhibition/utabarth>