Still Here is a series of photographs by Lydia Goldblatt currently on show at Fuse Art Space in Bradford. Shot in the artist’s family home, the works deal with the approaching death of her father and both her parents’ aging.
It is quite a varied show, ranging from portraits of her parents that capture the frailty of their whole bodies, and then other works like Hinterland, After Image and Lacuna in extreme close-up. There are also more abstract works like Air’s Filigree, First Circle #2 and Constellation #1 that are more ambiguous in their meaning. Goldblatt explains more about this intimate exhibition:
Is it important for you to use such a personal and autobiographical subject?
Photographing, for me, has always been a means of inhabiting and interpreting the world in which I exist. I have been drawn to subjects that trace the fleeting shadow of personal existence onto more enduring human narratives, and in trying to give expression to both the internal and external processes that shape our experience of life.
In the ever-evolving process of understanding my own artistic concerns, I have begun to realize that there is a constant slippage and connection between personal and universal, and in making the work about my parents I am beginning to explore this position more explicitly and freely.
It was inevitable, I suppose, that I would photograph my father, as my limited knowledge and understanding of mortality has always been bound up in his figure. That I am only beginning to do so now is a strange collision of life situation and artistic development. I could not have begun this earlier, nor could I have waited any longer.
I would add that although this work explores a personal subject matter, these subjects and relationships are also fundamental to anyone’s life, such that perhaps they are never simply personal, but provide important elements of recognition between us.
How does Still Here reflect your relationship with your parents?
One of the interesting things that transpired for me in making this work is the realization that my different relationship with each parent is evident in the ways that I photograph them differently. There is, I think, a greater memorializing intensity with the photographs of my father, which is a kind of intensity of looking that struggles to understand some essence of humanity.
Particularly in the details of his bodily surfaces and edges, his face, hair, mouth and eyes, I am exploring the physical and psychological thresholds that mark out individual existence, and the fragility of our physical form.
I am also, of course, photographing in acute detail the parts of his body through which he most fully communicates and understands, and through which we, in turn, understand and communicate with him. His involvement in this process varies from an active conversation and often loving exchange, to a passive acceptance that echoes his increasingly internalized actuality.
With my mother, these themes are very much part of our exchange, but there is more light and shade to the emotional terrain, and a greater sense of play between us. There is also an acceptance of my photographing that comes both from her familiarity with it and, I think, from the trust that exists between us. She has her own creative impulse, and understands mine, and I am very grateful for the trust she places in me in allowing me to photograph her. That being said, I am not always sure that she approves of the result!
What kind of reactions have you had to the show at Fuse so far?
It has been a very stimulating experience to show the work at Fuse Art Space. Working with the gallery is a pleasure, and they are encouraging a new audience to see and respond to my work, which is very exciting.
I have had interesting conversations with people about the work in the gallery, which often address the fact that the work connects so strongly with others because it reflects what is ultimately a universal experience.
For me, this is a wonderful response, as it was always my aim to create a body of work that was contextualised in the personal but that addressed something of our shared progression through life.
I have been very encouraged by the artistic community’s response to and sharing of information around the show, and am very much looking forward to working with local artists on a series of portfolio reviews in a few weeks’ time.
Goldblatt’s Still Here makes the perfect backdrop to Fuse’s eclectic mix of events (one of which recently included Asian Qawali singers and musicians, a Spanish guitarist and a local mandolin player!). The exhibition runs at Fuse Art Space, Bradford until 27 July 2014.