Sarah Jones’ photographs at Maureen Paley are the illustration of an idea which could be summarised as chiaroscuro. As we all know, the reduction of the chromatic range to the minimum and the use of light enhances volume and this enhances the textural aspects of the figure. What Sarah Jones does is to reduce the chromatic range to cero and photograph black on black.
This, according to Time Out’s Martin Coomer is enough to make the viewer want ‘to let your eyes inch across textures and details -papery orchid petals, the lustrous coat of a horse. It’s here, nose to the wall, where the work becomes truly disconcerting. Because, while Jones’s images describe things with exacting clarity, the photos themselves are uniformly matt and beguilingly depthless’.
What Martin Coomer thinks Sarah Jones achieves is uncanniness through fragmentation and isolation. However, this is not a difficult thing to achieve. Just focus on any object for more than one minute and the awkwardness of the experience will emerge.
A dash of colour comes courtesy of works from ‘The Rose Gardens (Display)’ series which appear to show municipal rose beds in the dead of night; in fact they were shot with bright studio lights during daylight. This day-for-night substitution is just one strategy used by the artist to cast doubt on what we are seeing. Having said this, any ambiguity and confusion comes across as artistic intentionality and becomes far too rhetorical to the point of pointlessness.
The tendency here, as shown in photographs of textiles receding into darkness, is towards a kind of painterly romanticism, one that draws us towards the edges of things – and beyond that, the void. There is something Victorian (a la Conan Doyle) in this but to be honest it is boring and…aesthetising. I am struggling to see why these kind of images would be endorsed by Maureen Paley’s gallery. God knows. Just a thought.
UNTIL APRIL 19TH
AT MAUREEN PALEY’S LONDON