Sometimes a photograph is merely that – an image, simple or complex –, printed in ink, or blasted into paper as silver nitrate particles burn to black, or just as a particular arrangement of pixels on a digital screen. A rose is a rose is a rose; a photo is a photo is a photo. Occasionally however, a photograph is placed in a situation setting where its purpose expands beyond representation of a situation or figure, where it becomes a component of construction with other, more tangible objects. Gabriele Beveridge explores this fully dimensional use of photography in her sculptural works, combining a depiction of space in appropriated images with the physical space of sculptural objects.
To call Beveridge’s work assemblage seems like an anemic description of what the London-based artist is creating; the juxtaposition of sculptural elements and photography in her work breaks beyond a surface-level, close positioning of object and image. A conversation emerges between the high fashion photography she appropriates for her sculptures and the latent materiality of geological substances – marble, geodes and crystals – that frame the images. An obvious suggestion is of the classical relationship between these classical materials, marble in particular, and the depiction of the female form. Beveridge’s work provides a link between ancient sculptures with their smooth, Platonic ideals of beauty and to the hyper-disseminated, and mass-consumed visuals of modern human aesthetics. But again, this conclusion doesn’t quite capture the deeper implications of the work:. the human images are cropped, duplicated, and ultimately detached from any original context. A distinct ambiguity arises from the dreamy, diverted gazes of Beveridge’s figures, such as in ‘Strange reality of your flesh’,” ‘Post-exertion visibility’ and ‘FAST TANNING SUNBEDS’, all from 2013. This vagueness and elusiveness lends itself to an interpretive experience that evokes generalities of glamour rather than intimate specificity. The arrangements may provide a link from the ancient acropolis to the modern gallery space, but they also presents the mineral as equal to the human as an expressive and symbolic substance. In a few examples, a geode or crystalline mineral literally takes the place of the figure’s head – suggesting a space between cognitive and physical substances.
Despite the importance of material in Beveridge’s work, it still swirls around the locus of portraiture and representation, of visage and personality. The photograph is most often the dominant structure in any of her constructions, sometimes strikingly so. With ‘Lucid dreaming hangover’ in particular, the woman’s gaze comprises only a small percentage of the work’s size but is immediate and direct in its invasion of the viewer’s personal space. Positioned behind a window sporting a semi-drawn set of Venetian blinds, ‘hangover’ abducts the viewer and places him squarely into a well-explored role in art, that of the active spectator. The model’s ambitious look only intensifies the voyeuristic feeling of peeking in through the blinds and inhabiting the space between unwelcome guest and curious co-conspirator. A pair of sunglasses on the windowsill suggests the female as image, of the visual experience of gaze, while the slice of marble topping the photograph’s frame is a solid reminder of the physicality of the situation.
It’s important to remember in Beveridge’s work that the photographs, like the figures they depict, are at once an anchor and a probe, an interpretive foothold within the larger construction and also a tool with which we can explore the relationships between image and physicality, of contextual expression and ambiguous intent. The photograph is a jumping off point, but it’s also the mysterious meaning we find at the bottom of the leap.
Written by Matthew Flores, Published 5 February 2014