Analogue study of overwhelming presence, intangibility and dimension
As a sublime invitation to confront the limits of the natural skyscape, photographer and visual artist, Thomas Wynne, reimagines the boundlessness of our surroundings through his use of experimental photography.
Graduating from Middlesex University in 2017, his culminating series and degree show work,Ground Control, is a study of the “unfathomable”. Intrigued by a symbolic notion of both presence and radical absence, Wynne immerses us in the abstraction of what lies above and beyond. Aiming to expose and defy the two-dimensional boundaries of photographic printing by disorientating and mystifying through a stereoscopic anaglyphic visionary, he intrigues a natural curiosity to view the sky from such an alternative perspective.
Transporting and transforming an existing universal conception of calm clouds, the outcome speaks of the artist himself before it speaks to others. Transcending a temporal resemblance to Alfred Stieglitz’s nine-year-long cloud studies, Equivalents, a similar spirit of emotional experience embodies the sky’s portrait. Photography can record as well as create, managing to achieve both, ‘trace’ becomes an aesthetic hieroglyph, translated through the cultural language of photography. Toying with a juxtaposition of sublime beauty and absolute chaos, Wynne composes his compelling scope of the world that subjects a contemplative ephemerality with the intriguing dystopia of something beyond celestial bounds.
Much like Equivalents, Ground Control holds a superiority of infinite visual conversation that boundlessly dwarfs the spectator; an obstacle that the artist found psychically incapable of presenting on a sheet of paper. Through testing the elemental technique of photography further than the eye can readily discern, Thomas uses darkroom experimentation and digital manipulation as a vehicle to initiate new information and meaning. Furthermore, challenging photography’s most obvious status as an autonomous art, he appropriates a labour intensive hand-process to embellish the multi-layered texture of clouds. Separating his work from traditional idealism, the anaglyphic colours of bright cyan and red build up an illusory three-dimensional image, like “an upturned sky”. Imposing questions of how we can think we see what we see, the images are visceral and emotive and their appearance to offer a transparent relationship to experience is interrogated by an empathetic relationship to colour and texture.
“There is somewhat of a hard comparison between a crimson orange sunset sky, and a dramatic thundercloud with undulations and hard shadows and form, wouldn't you say?”
Absorbing abstraction through extremes of light and dark, vivid hues and silvery tones, the series sequences a broken pattern that disorientates and dislocates from an idealistic reality. The monochromatic daydream interacts with a more unpredictable, seductive field of colour, “where the experience of seeing not only overwhelms but interacts with somebody on a higher level”. Nature is intervened by the camera to expose a sensual distortion of a theme usually so familiar.
Unafraid to show flaws, imperfection unifies the “hand of the artist” to the subject, a personal desire that brings the expanse of the sky back down to earth. Revealing “something greater” about the individuality and irreproducibility that combines to create a contemporary contradiction on photography’s primitive vice. Strongly influenced by the work ethic of Daisuke Yokota, the visibility of process and meaning take an active part in his practice, too. Yokota materialises how the camera can record severity but cannot include it. Embracing experimental unpredictability, layers upon layers of abstraction maintain textural marks, left as “some sort of key to decipher the image”.
Determinable to the nature of time and place, Wynne’s photography is spontaneous and instinctive. Resistant to internal arrangement, the composition creates itself; enforcing a barrier between man and nature. Capturing a subject so infinite and unique, the artist presents a catalogue of self-definition that imitates an emotive reconciliation towards the moment it was taken.
It is without a doubt that Steilgitz’s Equivalentsdemonstrate ineffable dimension of expanse and of inspiration, but whether they achieved their goal is a question one must answer for themselves. Wynne similarly hopes for alternative perceptions of his work to align with his own.
Where “the notion of being dwarfed by the sky brings both fear and joy and gives me the impression of being encapsulated in an unfathomable blanket”, trying not to make sense of what is up and what is down, he just builds on its natural disarray. His images show the meditative temporality of our ever-changing surroundings; images without restraint and without grounds.
Images by Thomas Wynne
Text by Molly Budd