Janez Pukšič: Polaroids
Janez Pukšič’s less known photographic passion is for Polaroid. The central part of the exhibition includes mainly work from the 1990s, when most of them were made. In “golden age” of Polaroid (in the 1980s & 1990s, when the medium was in general use and, despite some professional camera models, had the reputation of instant cameras being largely used by amateur photographers), some established artists took advantage of its creative potential ( Ralph Gibson, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, David Hockney, Andy Warhol, William Wegman, etc.)
Artist making fine art photography with Polaroid at the time in Slovenia were Milan Pajk, in 1981 he shot a series of portrait snapshots entitled “Hi, America” with conceptual consideration about the medium, Franci Virant, who was creating expressive portraits with interventions into not yet fixed Polaroid images and Janez Pukšič who was interested into the transfer of instant image onto another medium and thereby also in the new quality of the final image. The transfer to handmade paper enables a range of various effects, with softness and sfumato certainly being in the forefront for Pukšič.
Image transfer and emulsion transfer are procedures that the artist used individually and in combination. In the first procedure, a few seconds after the shot is made, the surface layer of the photo is removed, the image is transferred and the development process is completed on a new medium. For an even absorption, the image is rolled. The colour intensity of the transferred image can be determined by the photographer. In emulsion transfer, the developed image is submerged in hot water, while the very thin, sensitive Polaroid ‘epidermis’ that is separated from the paper backing is transferred to the paper. This causes special effects of torn or creased images, etc. The procedures demand technical excellence and skill. This has always been an obligation for Pukšič, and he makes use of it in telling a story.
Pukšič – who as a photographer first worked as a photo-journalist and then in studio photography, has also worked a lot on photomontage – deals with the following motifs in his Polaroid cycles: nudes predominate, followed by still life and architectural photography, most often antique interiors to which the technique adds a special aged look and charm.
At the author’s beginnings of working with transfers technique as a basis for transfer his older fine art prints done in a classical analogue approach were used. These were photographed with reversal film, projected, photographed with Polaroid and only then the final image was created with the use of transfer technique. Original shot is therefore used as a basis for later image interventions to show the author’s vision. Some of above mentioned early shots, the so-called “metaphysical nudes” (nude with mask in the studio, nude in front of the wall with accentuated duality, the image divided in half with contrasts between light and dark parts and surreal double shadow (done in 1974 and later), can be seen at the exhibition as well. Chronologically followed nudes with corporality and light in the forefront, there is no interior and figures are kind of phantasmatic, protagonists are mostly shown with masks and give the impression of dolls. Also these images contain some elements of metaphysical painting and join real and imaginary, material and transcendental, physical and spiritual. The mask is there for the transcendental part of the naked being. The chair is another element often used by photographer as the symbol of the time.With the development of the motif the naked body gets less and less material and is decayed in light. Very elementary compositions accentuate the female body in natural, relaxed poses without detailed descriptions. There is no interior in the photos, the body is always in the forefront and is slightly transforming into silhouettes. Because of the way the technique emphasises the fogginess, tenderness, sensuality, fragility and diffuse light, women and their sexuality are treated at a symbolic, connotative level, while the specifics of the photographic medium are transformed into painterly qualities.
In another author’s variation on the theme the naked body is settled into exterier, into landscape which steps in the forefront. The shapes of the body are melting with nature, with the tree, ancient symbol of life, growth and bond beetwen earth and sky, beetwen material and spiritual. Accentuation of duality, indication of what is hidden to our eyes, is being a constant theme in Pukšič’s work.