THE TROPHY ROOM

Ross Hansen


Ross Hansen makes paintings and drawings of and about photography. As such he is stepping outside the media in order to comment on it, although he sees a common documentary impulse displayed in the photographs taken by millions of amateur and casual photographers and his own artistic practice; a practice which is predicated on the labour intensive re-recording of photographic information using manual means.
He works with pre-existing images, selecting those that reveal a culture of document making, or of trophy taking, for the images he selects are those that explicitly record and monumentalise a moment, that fix a human presence in a specific time and place. The carp anglers’ photograph of a prize catch is just such an artefact. These fish are hooked out of the water - photographed, and then returned, the photograph remains as a kind of emasculated trophy. These photographs function as a kind of contemporary taxidermy, a staving off of death, an ultimately doomed attempt to preserve life.
Now, more than ever, people are increasingly documenting and recording their lives in photographs. Any contemporary exploration of how and why people take photographs inevitably has to deal with the new ways in which people are recording (and sharing) images, including images recorded, shared, and posted on the internet directly from camera phones. Several of the works in this show are based on such images, which are rarely high quality or conventionally ‘good’ photographs. The self-portrait and images of sexual conquests dominate the online archives; there is something pathetic and forlorn about the public display of these images, and yet there is something about their very inconsequentiality that makes them magnetic, compulsive, voyeuristic viewing.
In re-making and re-presenting these photographic images as paintings and drawings Ross Hansen changes nothing else, they undergo no additional cropping or editing, only the scale, media and process of translation are open to subtle variation.
The images of carp fisherman, Capture Image and Great White, are rendered in an impacted layer of Caran D’Ache colour pencil. They recall childhoods spent copying images from natural history picture books; a hobbyist, bedroom aesthetic magnified a hundred fold. Watercolour was used to produce the intimately scaled About Last Night. Based on a camera phone image that appears to show a high-class call girl in a hotel bathroom, the seediness of the image is strangely exacerbated through being re-made in a medium more readily associated with the comfortable and easily understood.
All of the images are produced using the same basic process of enlarging using a grid, but process and image come together in Picture Mail. The image, pixellated from the initial recording medium, is further agitated by its translation into paint. The visible layers of mediation create a cool distance between the viewer and the coquettish subject of the photograph. At a distance the (male) viewer is seduced, flirted with, then pushed away as they approach, as the image breaks down into a graphic interplay of unyieldingly flat colour shapes.
The time and labour invested in the surface of these works slows down the way that viewers receive these images. By translating the images into a different media and removing them from their original contexts, the artist places a distance between the subjects of the original photographs and the viewer of the works. This distance effectively foregrounds the different recording processes, and documentary impulses, of photographer and artist, as the subject of the works.


 
THE TROPHY ROOM Ross Hansen  
October 5 to November 14