Jessica Eaton: The Eyes Have It
By Genie Davis
M+B gallery just closed a solo exhibition by Canadian fine art photographer Jessica Eaton, her second show in the gallery. It’s easy to see why Eaton was invited back: her photographic art is inventive, dazzling, and literally has viewers unable to take their eyes off of it. If art were a staring contest, Eaton has won.
Eaton works with a large-format analog camera, investigating photography itself, spatial dynamics, color, line, and shape. The exhibition includes three new series, each dedicated to the idea of challenging photographic technique as a stand-in for our own vision.
“Transitions,” takes off where Eaton’s previous series, “Cubes For Albers and LeWitt,” began.
The layering of exposures here creates a deep, 3-D like effect, taking geometric compositions into an almost hallucinatory realm. Additive color makes this series vibrant and to some extent, vibrational. Look long enough and the images seem to move and shift. The rich color palette dances out from Eaton’s photographic art, even as the Venetian-blind like striations over the images obfuscate it to some degree. In “Transition H45,” blues, purples, and magenta predominate in overlapping circular shapes veiled with thin lines in graded colors. “Transition CO2,” on the other hand, features a black background, tamping down the visual vibrations; here the lines crossing over the circular images are wider, the colors more muted blue, green, and orange.
Eaton’s “Pictures for Women,” series riffs on the artwork of female artists, interpreting them through Eaton’s camera. Soft, glowing, and luminous, these works are designed using motion blur to create fuzzy yet somehow precise images, wheels in motion, creative spirits spinning. “Etel 01″ has a violet center that blossoms like a flower in the shape of an EP on a phonograph. Where “Helen 01″ is more soft focus than motion, the orange, white, and rose of “Sarah 01″ is traveling fast. Each piece references an existing real-world image. The photographs utilize kinetic set-ups to create their unique sense of barely-contained motion.
So too do the works in “Revolutions,” but these pieces are pinwheels on a black backdrop, crisply defined, no softness here. Yet despite their clean images, they still remain incandescent, mysterious. Well-known for her color separation techniques, here Eaton’s circular forms spin in on themselves, multi-colored waves caught in a curl.
Eaton has described her works as exploiting the properties of light. She works by adding color separations, filtering colors into her camera and taking multiple exposures of gray shapes to form vivid rainbow hues. Just as a painter mixes paint on his or her palette, Eaton mixes color inside the camera itself.
Of the three series here, “Pictures for Women” may be the most astonishing, spiritual, almost ghostly, the soft focus reminds the viewer of a living thing, captured but perhaps not for long. “Revolutions” has the vibe of pop art, 1960s era visual candy. The “Transitions” series has a dimensional quality that takes viewers to the surreal, or at least to the edge of it.
Eaton is an alchemist, mixing and matching the strange elixirs of color, motion, and vision to create something quite singular that defies categorization. To look into and at her world is to dive into an exuberant, logic-defying realm. What you see is what you get – and it’s an eye-full. Don’t blink.