Greg Elms / Preserved / November 07 – 24 2012
I grew up in a suburban hotel with a public bar festooned in taxidermy hunting trophies. I’d spend ages gazing at them and have remained enthralled by their life-like lifelessness ever since. For me taxidermy is akin to photography: it too presents a frozen moment as a copy of the real thing.
On one level, the work explores our primal emotional responses when in close proximity to animals and insects. But it also explores what truth means in photography – is a contrived photograph still real? And doesn’t photography always render the real as contrived? I seek to highlight this conundrum with the further contrivance of taxidermy.
Inspired by gothic and nocturnal precursors in art, and the history of zoology, the fauna are recontextualised into a menagerie of lost lives – some of them, presumably, the celebration of a now forgotten hunting spree. Each one echoes the story of their demise and surrender to human intervention, their poses animated by a taxidermist’s skills of presentation and reality re-enactment.
To document the series, I have employed the idiosyncratic image making qualities of a film scanner re-purposed into a lens-less camera, its simplicity reminiscent of a camera obscura. Set in an otherwise unlit studio, the resultant image reveals a constructed twilight that fuels a dark narrative. Focus of the subject is likewise abnormal, sharp only where features press against the glass platen screen, dissolving into darkness and blur as they recede, implying a sense of entrapment behind the image surface.
Preserved raises allusions to the history of zoological inquiry and highlights the sense of loss intrinsic to mortality. Indeed, the works can be read as a series of ecological memento mori.
For twenty years Gregory Elms has investigated the nature of representation by reducing, contorting and exploring photography’s documentary essence. His output has ranged from photograms, painted photographs, photo realist painting, and most recently, lens-less photography.
His current series, Preserved, documents the lifelike lifelessness of taxidermy, presenting a zoological menagerie that is both hyper-real and otherworldly. The work ‘erects an invisible barrier between us and the animals; a physical barrier but in many ways and with more consequence to us, a psychological barrier’ according to curator Simon Gregg.
Six of the images from the Preserved series were recently exhibited at Sale Regional Gallery as part of the Animal Kingdom exhibition. Gregory has a degree in photography from RMIT and is a VCA fine art post-graduate. Preserved is his fourth solo exhibition and his work has been included in numerous group exhibitions.
Preserved and What Remains, Time Machine #8 2013