Matt Saunders at Tate Liverpool
By: Ashitha Nagesh
Matt Saunders’s innovative commission for Tate Liverpool, “Century Rolls,” aims to deconstruct boundaries between photography and painting. The majority of the pieces, silver gelatin prints on paper, are made by projecting light through a drawing or painting to expose a sheet of photosensitive paper, creating an eerie, ghostlike effect as the hidden qualities of the images are revealed. The original source images are barely recognizable in their new form, rendering the search for narrative futile.
In order to emphasize the uniqueness of each individual print, Saunders has performed the distortion on the each image several times, displaying the disparate results consecutively. For example, two pieces from the “Rote Kapelle (Pour)” series, (all works 2012)––#4 and #6––are placed side by side in order to invite comparison. It becomes apparent how the inclusion or absence of seemingly minor details can alter the impression of the entire image: For instance, the remainder of one sorrowful eye in #4 betrays a figurative element that has been completely removed from the slightly more distorted #6.
Conversely, in the case of the “Liverpool” series, the process of abstraction has created a liquidized, inky image that evokes Liverpool’s gushing seaside more than any literal representation could. Saunders reinvents these paintings, revealing in the process how forms, when divorced from their original context, do not become unrecognizable but are instead imbued with new meaning. The unique reaction that occurs in each painting also throws into doubt the assumed inherent reproducibility of photographs, especially in the era of digital photography. In “Century Rolls,” Saunders attempts to re-create the elusive “aura” that Walter Benjamin claimed was lost with the advent of photography.