Doc Ross – A Phantasmic Exposure of Self Through Art and Sarah Garland – Kin
A Phantasmic Exposure of Self Through Art
“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible….”
– Oscar Wilde
Our creatives selves are composites of the curated past and our own aspirational present. The look of an artists’ work shifts in response to their perceived place in historical making and momentarily manifest desire.
Like the optically fluctuating body of the octopus – as it moves across territories of relative refuge or peril – an artist’s body of work modifies in response to a lifetime’s traverse across creative peaks and productively barren vales.
Doc Ross’ exquisite A Phantasmic Exposure of Self Through Art presents us with an ambitious series of unique, large-format, photographs which are synchronously skin deep and implicitly rich.
Like Tā moko which traditionally traces whakapapa … and western tattoos – which often attempt memorialisation of personal history – Ross’ self-affiliated and projected art-lineage may be viewed as a photographically taxidermic record of his own temporarily-illuminated skin.
Ross’ epidermis is a mature one. And much like John Coplans’ candid, nude, self-portraits, Ross’ frankly employed, late-in-life, body provides a very real corporeal canvas upon which perishable experience is indelibly scribed.
From van Rijn to Van Gogh to Van Hout artists have long employed self portraiture to suggest to the viewer that they are being granted privileged access to an artist’s catacomb of self. Ross continues the tradition, but cloaks the entrance to his own implied ‘grotto’ of self with a fleeting veneer of transformative art-world-images that Ross selects for their inherent power to delight, intrigue, and contend.
Particularly arresting is one image featuring a 17th century Pieter Claesz painting. A lustrous human skull atop a low plinth of piled diaries, with the feathered end of a quill pen, anchors the painting’s projected, De Trop, detail. The skull’s eye-hole concavities – courtesy of Claesz’s 17th century memento mori – suggests an uncannily eyeless view into Ross’ pictorially excavated interior. Additional enchantment comes via the anatomically neat fit of the skull’s forehead and crown’s into the artist’s broad upper back and shoulders.
Keith Haring’s practice sits well with Ross’ project – given Haring’s serial habit of mapping painted vermiculation onto the topography of naked human skin. Haring’s bodily subjects were often beautiful, and often black … such as the then-young 80s Diva Grace Jones’, and the physically-prime Choreographer Bill T Jones. Ross by contrast is unambiguously white and, like John Coplan, his photographs are dependent, for some of their paradoxical ‘rub’, on his less than olympian, senior, physique.
Ross also cannily tangos with Cindy Sherman’s self-transformations – which unsurprisingly make perfect dance partners for the Christchurch photographer’s creative pas de deux.
Another especially strong work is one in which Ross plays the tension-loaded inner-architectonics of a Lyubov Popova’s colour-saturated, revolutionary, Futuro-Cubist painting against his own body’s pale, biomorphic, rotundity.
Doc Ross’ journeyman photographs have – over time – bravely surveyed and recorded vast territories of subject matter and sensibility. A Phantasmic Exposure of Self Through Art stands confidently on the shoulders of an estimable lifetime’s body of work. And, in doing so, ups the ante on work still to come from one of Aotearoa’s most innovative image makers.
A portrait series showing the continuing exploration through family photo archives.
Celebrating the earnest efforts of the original artists (photographers), depicted images are selected for their compositional qualities, for their ability to challenge, question or simply entertain.
The figures are described wholly, or in part (honouring the source with accuracy despite it’s misstep) and the palette is always nostalgic, faithfully rendered in tones affected by time.