TORSOS IN SPACE, LIGHT AND TIME
- the Polaroid images of Cindy Konits
Juhani Pallasmaa, architect, professor emeritus, writer (Helsinki)
The photographic polaroids of Cindy Konits fuse spaces of rooms and nature with a female figure creating uniquely poetic images. These fusions of space and the human torso make me think of the psychoanalytic notion of introjection that refers to the way a newborn relates with the world through the interior of her mouth. The images depict the photographer’s home and her body, projecting a nearness, intimacy and credibility. “The house is always a cradle”, as Gaston Bachelard has suggested, while I think of home as a womb, and an experience of naked skin. The experience of home is haptic and existential more than visual; we dwell through our skin. Regardless of the intimacy of these photographed scenes, there is no feeling of voyeurism.
The seemingly natural illumination in the images creates a sense of clarity and truth, akin to the paintings of Edward Hopper of his wife Jo. The partial erasure of the human body and its re-composition bring to mind the tormented figures of Francis Bacon. However, the painter’s violence and agony of the flesh is replaced by a sense of enigma and mystery and a concealed erotic air. The female figure is often seen against a window or a door opening, recalling the multitude of famous paintings of women at a window from Johannes Vermeer to Caspar David Friedrich and Salvador Dali.
Poetic images evoke other images, and an endless layeredness and field of infinite references are qualities of great artistic works. The last film of Michelangelo Antonioni, Beyond the Clouds, ends in the words of the photographer protagonist: ’But we know that behind every image revealed, there is another image more faithful to reality, and in back of that image there is another, and yet another behind the last one, and so on, up to the true image of the absolute mysterious reality that no-one will ever see’.
The images of Cindy Konits convey an air of revelation or miracle and make one think of the benevolent scenes in old icon paintings or the sensuous scenes of Duccio di Buoninsegna and other masters of the School of Sienna, in which buildings have the scale of humans. The setting and human figures are integrated and buildings appear as well-fitting cloths of their dwellers. The softened, eroded edges of her figures suggest alternating acts of remembering and forgetting, appearing and disappearing, focusing and unfocusing, recognition and estrangement. Sometimes the etching brightness of illumination nearly erodes the human torso, as if she had left in a rush, or evaporated like water in excessive heat. The images appear momentary as if they were in the process of becoming or disappearing.
These instant Polaroid images create an air of dream, nostalgia and desire. The female figure becomes part of a wall or wall paper, or is wrapped in bedclothes or the shadows and darknesses of the room. Paintings on the walls of the rooms expand the imagery and narrative into further enigmatic realms. Sometimes the edges of the photograph are eroded, worn or torn, as if consumed by water, time and processes of forgetting. The eroded images with their diluted boundaries may also appear as fragments of watercolors, rather than photographic plates; the technical lettering (FUJI FP-100 926211) left on the print, however, brings the aquarelle image back to the realm of photography, and creates a dialogue between two processes of image making, both engaging water.
The translucency of light echoes the transparency of textiles, and also the material surfaces seem to be in a stage of transformation, either losing or gaining materiality and solidity. Sometimes the room is filled with a coloured darkness, in which the figure is embedded as a pearl in a ring. The figures are soft, translucent and uncertain, often to the point of being almost entirely erased. In one of the images, suggesting a ruined interior, the female torso is barely distinguishable high up on the window sill while the attention is caught by a luminous triangle suggesting the concept of trinity, which appears to be created by a light source outside the viewer’s field of vision. Also in the outdoor images an intimate and containing space is carved by illumination; the torso occupies a protective space of light, suggesting the innocent ambience of a fairytale.
The lack of focus and stable gestalt makes the eye slide across the image turning the experience into a peripheral search, a haptic caress across the surfaces in search of focus, stability and meaning. These are images of the skin as much as of the eye, of imagination and fantasy as much as the viewer’s sense of reality. As the viewer is unable to define his/her position in relation to the image, the spatial juxtapositions and layerings are intensified; the image turns into a spatial labyrinth of indeterminate depth. As the eye fails to resolve the spatial ambivalence, an aural sense is activated. These images have an echo and they are heard and touched as much as perceived by the eye. The incapacity of vision activates the other senses; we do not “see” the world, we sense it through our sense of existence. We cannot see the world as we are inside it. “The world is wholly inside, and I am wholly outside myself”, Maurice Merleau-Ponty writes enigmatically.