“The eye thinks that light is white, whereas in reality it’s composed of different colors – green, yellow, orange…” With what he has accomplished with lighting effects and more, Jens Komossa manages to keep his listeners fascinated for hours, as he goes about the business of “giving and taking time.”
In March, the Berlin-based artist Jens Komossa made his first visit to Forcalquier. Enchanted by the ancient Provencal capital, he captured his impressions in a series of nocturnal photographs using only available light and with exposure times lasting as many as six hours. Avoiding the more touristic attractions, he sought out details that seemed to distill the genius loci of the town. At the same time, he began to produce indoor studies inspired by the architecture of a house in the rue des Cordeliers. In the course of subsequent visits, these enigmatic interiors would grow into a remarkable series entitled Photographie murale.
The results are far removed from the glamorous, semi-documentary effects of interior-decorating magazines. No furnishings or ornamentation are visible, and with few exceptions, the explicit subject of the photos is unidentifiable; indeed, most compositions can be rotated with no loss of “readability.” One recognizes, at most, a corner, a supporting beam, an expanse of flaking paint, the glowing silhouette cast by a window. The long exposure times reveal unexpected textures and tonalities that often resemble those of ancient silk. The familiar cliché that the photographer “paints” with light acquires new validity here.
Komossa made his first night-photos while studying at the prestigious Folkwang School in Essen in the 1990s. During travels through France during his student days, he was fascinated by the green and orange glow of neon signs and streetlamps in sleeping villages and towns, which could only be accurately recorded through long-term exposures. In the same way, he documented the decrepit charm of the low-budget hotel rooms where he rested during his journeys. The streets of Berlin soon followed suit, as did the darkened apartments of friends.
Berlin Rooms, the series for which Komossa first became known, recorded commonplace nighttime views from apartment windows. TV Rooms from Paris, New York and Berlin soon followed, for which the sole source of illumination is an unseen television screen. Nothing is prettified here: rumpled sheets, discarded clothing and newspapers and empty bottles remain just as the occupants left them. The images are intimate yet eerie, offering a familiar domestic reality in unfamiliar guise. Outdoors, too, commonplace urban sceneries take on an oddly surrealist air, like stills from a David Lynch film.
Komossa’s recent work has grown increasingly abstract – a tendency that finds its most eloquent expression in the artist’s reductionist Photographie murale. These are still, introspective studies that seem to exude their own inner radiance. “If you only make one picture in an entire night,” Komossa maintains, “a special kind of concentration becomes possible, as in archery.” The viewer, too, is encouraged to share this enriched moment.
David Galloway / Art News