Capturing the Visible: Assaf Evron's Photographic Practice
My way is to walk the roads
Looking right and left
And sometimes looking behind me...
What I see at each moment
Is that which I never
Caught sight of before.
-- Fernando Pessoa*
The encounter with Assaf Evron's works is direct and immediate. They are revealed unobstructed and in one breath, striking the viewer with all their force and sensitivity. Evron does not spare the viewer. The visible is thrust at us, and in response we are forced to swallow it whole, so that we may then gradually deconstruct and digest all those apparatuses of action embedded in it. The exhibition "Near and Apparent" consists of a chain of independent images which nevertheless unite under some inner logic. That logic is Evron's photographic language, which is constituted by a system of recurring signs and attributes.
Evron's photographs face us afresh with the banal sites of everyday life that often go unnoticed. Places that we drive or walk past, disregarding and moving on as if they were not there. Evron is a "persevering passenger" travelling with his camera, stopping and lingering in suspension at those casual sites, thereby realizing new options of the gaze.
Via calculated choices, extreme adjacency, and various acts of framing and reduction, the sights caught in Evron's lens are transformed into a new, intricate gaze. In his photographic act Evron offers us scraps of landscape, parts of a whole, thereby embodying a desire for a different type of observation, an attempt to draw away from the trivial gaze. Relinquishment of the overall setting demands effort from the viewer, to solve the riddle and complete the deconstructed image.
Evron anchors the materials of reality in direct, piercing frames with meticulous aesthetics and a careful, accurate composition. The square format recurring in all the works, excluding the barrel photograph, reinforces the dimension of power and stability. The coloration is vivid and saturated, apparently congruent with the hot hours of the day in which the photographs were taken. The bright sun seems to inundate and permeate the photographs, enhancing the brilliance of the colors.
Another conspicuous element in the photographs is the extreme proximity which emphasizes the surface and the texture of the photographed objects. Consistently recurring in all the works, this is, in fact, the most crucial, immanent element in Evron's oeuvre. The photography from a close range explores the possibilities of the gaze, while at the same time generating a barring effect. The three-dimensional space in the photographs gradually gives way to the two-dimensional, conceding to the surface. There is no view into the distance, but rather a direct, proximal, virtually clustered position. Depth is eliminated, and we are confronted with the nets that block the penetrating gaze despite their airiness; we are confronted with the burnt tree trunk, the "accident wall," iron panels, concrete walls, and other landscapes and bodies which leave no breathing space.
The image in Evron's work becomes a type of aesthetic, tactile ground. The two-dimensional surface underscores its materiality, concurrently losing the features of its original identity. The photograph penetrates the material to the point that it creates a sense of a living body, a quivering, breathing organic texture. The extreme adjacency ostensibly flattens the photographed image, making it difficult to identify, while preserving its inner qualities as well as the memory embedded in it. The fullness of the photograph and the penetration of the surface often generate the appearance of an abstract painting or, alternatively – a composition of colors surrendering narrative traces. Thus, for example, the "accident wall" series calls to mind paint smears, and is translated into painterly acts of dripping and wiping, carving and perforation. The stained, grooved walls, the pierced sheets, and the burnt palm trunk likewise illustrate the affinity with and yearning for painting. Moreover, the works contain a narrative thread; through the material they release hints at an act that previously occurred, a catastrophic occurrence involving pain.
Another theme consistently addressed by Evron pertains to power relations, practices of control and domination, restraint and edification. The works convey something curbed and obstructed; like a "locked garden," they conceal a secret and silence a story. The functionality of the photographed objects, the direct photography, and the concentration on the material – all these function as visual dam, subduing and fixing the viewer's gaze. The netting, for example, restrains the natural growth of the crops trapped within it, while wrapping and protecting them. The act of covering prevents the direct, tempting contact with the fruits, generating a type of barrier, boundary, and signification. The diptych of the bound cypress tree likewise represents elements of disciplining and education. The young sapling is forcefully fastened to a wooden pole. The natural and the artificial coexist in a duality that enables its growth, while interfering with its authentic development. In all the photographs the various surfaces – the rusting panels, the concrete mountains, the walls, and the netting – seem to indicate a dimension of power and violence, as well as the complex ambivalence underlying relationships of domination, vulnerability, and protection.
The photographs are devoid of human presence, yet generate a strong sense of physicality and motion. As aforesaid, the extreme proximity lends the photographed images a skin-like texture, and they emerge as a living and breathing membrane. The surface is usually scarred, scratched, and grooved. Thus, the scorched palm trunk appears like living flesh or an open wound, and the photographs of the iron panels and walls are replete with burns and pockmarks. Other works, such as the concrete mound or the ruined monument, possibly draw an analogy between landscape, body, and architecture, and may be likened to a female body or alternatively – a wounded animal.
In his work Evron strives to disrupt the normative, automatic gaze in favor of another type of gaze that raises questions and opens up possibilities. The enigmatic nature of the visible is stratified, and the invisible within it is not readily discernible. Despite the unmediated directness, the works demand suspension and search to gradually unearth their strata and meanings. Conceptually charged and committed to a meticulous aesthetic, Evron's photography presents the immediacy of the surface, and at the same time – the secret revealed within.
* From: Fernando Pessoa, "Twelve Poems," trans. Thomas Merton, in New Directions in Prose and Poetry 19, James Laughlin, Peter Glassgold, Fredrick R. Martin (eds.) (New York: New Directions, 1966), p. 299.
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