Saturday, 29 May 2010

Margaret Sharrow - artist statement

Art can be a place of spirituality in the secular culture as well as the religious.

Margaret Sharrow is an artist using lens-based media and alternative photographic processes in combination with sculpture, installation and performance.

Her work attempts to represent the numinous, the unseeable spiritual essence of things, through representations of the higher self and spiritual transformations.

She is also the founder of
Gwasg Oriel Press,
publisher of fine art and fine art photography books.

on photography

While many photographers' work is about presenting things in the prosaic as-they-are, often almost aggressively ugly at times, my work has always attempted to represent the beautiful. Not 'the beautiful' in an idealised sense - I do not enhance my landscapes with Photoshop, or retouch my portraits - not in choosing to represent this rather than that because it is judged to be more beautiful (though I could be accused of this in terms of my landscapes). But beautiful in the sense that, it exists, here it is, let us find the beauty that there is in it, though that may be hidden by its exterior. My 'softening' techniques, photographing with various in-camera distortions, is a way to help the viewer along towards seeing the spiritual. So much contemporary art photography is about the pristine luminosity of 'true' colour and sharp edges. This aesthetic leaves many viewers believing that they are somehow viewing 'the thing itself' in a mediumless way - perhaps this is part of the intent. This literal focus on 'reality' slips away from the truth that all photographs are selective representations. But the 'sharp focus' school of photography also abandons the viewer in the physical reality, and rarely suggests the deeper reality, the spiritual reality, behind what is portrayed. How could it do otherwise, when its perfection as an image makes it look so much like the thing itself, as we would encounter it in what we ordinarily perceive as reality? My 'softened' edges are just a way of helping people along towards perceiving that deeper reality. After all, for many people a profound experience of beauty is equated with spiritual transformation, indeed is spiritual transformation. While religion continues to provide this type of experience for many, there are increasing numbers of people for whom this is no longer relevant. Many people are seeking spiritual upliftment in other ways, including nature, music and art. I suppose it is at this point that I see my work, attempting to meet some part of the spiritual needs of the viewer. And I suppose it is this that ultimately drives me on, often subconsciously, beyond the satisfaction of inspiration and manifestation, the pleasure of making of the work.

Image: Soul portrait, mixed media, 2008

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