Marjorie Chu with Kheng-Li Wee, Chris Yap and Bary Cha Cha (L to R) at Art Forum Singapore.
Following my last post on aboriginal art and batik, I thought I would share something quite different this time : photography. I gathered 3 photographic artists, Kheng-Li, Chris Yap, Wee and Bary Cha Cha, for a chat.
There are many forms of photography: jounalistic, documentational and art. My interest is in photography as an art form. With iPhone’s increasing popularity as a go-to device for record making, many see iPhone as the ‘state of the art camera’ that does all things.
It may well be for some, but there are numerous factors to consider in the process of creating an excellent image. To me, a fine photographic work has 4 crucial elements: lighting, composition, concept and print technique. Let me look at the work of 3 photographers through these lenses.
It's so cold
fine digital Giclée print
on pearl cotton paper
edition of 3 + 1AP
76.2 cm x 50.4 cm
I chanced upon this work by Chris Yap during Art Stage 2018 and I acquired it without hesitation. Chris described his work as ‘dancing with the light’, so light is the key factor.
The work was arresting to me because the work had a certain romance and drama in it. The tactality of the objects in the image, the furry warmth of the deep scarlett red shawl, contrasting with the glossy pink of the chair, took appeal and mystery to whole new levels.
That said, printing techniques also make a lot of difference. Prints are multiple ‘orginals’. They, technically, complete the final process of image-making. Chris finished this particular work in Giclée print. In French, Giclée means ‘to spray'. Chris explained that this is a method of printing using a very fine inkjet printer that sprays up to 12 different colours onto a high quality paper or linen. The finer and denser the ‘sprayed dots’, the more intense the result.
The edition of Chris’ image is limited to 3 prints plus 1 Artist’s Proof (AP). With the super fine quality of the print and limited number of editions, this is as close to owning an original as it gets.
Chris Yap is both a photographer and an expert print maker.
on archival paper,
edition of 15
112 x 64 cm
One's eye is drawn to a nest precariously perched on to a backdrop
that is immersed in hues of aqua green. It is both organic and surreal.
on archival paper edition of 15
79 x 55 cm
The apple, pictured against a backdrop in milky shades,
does not quite appear to be resting on solid ground.
Bary Cha Cha’s work shares a similar surreal quality. Like Chris, he too, stages his image. The difference is that Bary uses only natural light, and anchors his image with light as a painting spectrum.
Bary Cha Cha said that his works "depict photographic moments created in collaboration with available light, presented with organic wit and an alchemic twist."
Natural light is never static, so he arrests moments that natural light provides and collaborates with the ever-changing rays. This gives his work a sense of drama and cinematic quality. Bary bases his decisions on the number of prints on the economics of cost to the collector and the artist/phographer.
Incidentally, Chris Yap is also the print ‘technician’ behind Bary’s work.
Silk Road, China series, 2004
siliver gelatin print edition of 5
40.7 x 50.8 cm
Kheng-Li Wee’s work too, finds a common ground in ‘surreality’, but unlike Chris and Bary, Kheng does not work with sets, he captures his images in moments of surrendipity. He wanders outdoors and waits to capture ‘the moment’, and when it comes, decisions on composition, lighting, and the alignment of the subject are considered in a matter of seconds.
At the heart of Kheng's practice is his ability to embody a moment of stillness when his subjects are in ‘kinetic’ states, as if the ‘frozen’ subjects are about to move any minute. Therein we too find a certain surreality and an abstract quality to Kheng’s works.
“The world as seen through my camera is quite still and almost perfect. The choice is already made for me as to what to include and to leave out. There is silence in a noisy environment, it is quite surreal,” said Kheng.
I think the diffference between Kheng-Li Wee's and Bary Cha Cha's treatment of light becomes apparent when we look at how they treat the human torso. To Kheng, light is tonal and captured as a subtle form with a gentler gradient, from dark to light. For Bary, the stark contrast between black and white is played up; the delivered effect and feel of 3-dimensional forms in focus becomes very different.
Male Torso-1, Istanbul, 2006
archival digital print ed.5
83.8 x 116.8 cm
Man Apart, 2015
black and white print on paper ed.1
48 x 72 cm