CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY FROM DÜSSELDORF, PART II
The principle of the collection is suitable both for a focused gaze at the individual object and for its inclusion in an overarching system of order. The photography of Natascha Borowsky moves between these two poles. The artist stages her found objects individually on color- and structure-coordinated, picture-paralleling backgrounds. Givens like a constant camera angle, clear relations between figure and ground, uniform natural light, consistent sharpness of detail, and the pictures’ hanging in rows or blocks create the impression of museum-like cataloging and sober documentation. At the same time, the isolation and magnification of the photographed objects gives them a portrait-like presence that seems familiar from product advertising, but that stands closer to the pointing gesture of the presentation of sacred relicts than to a utility-oriented reference to a thing. Conflicting impulses operate on the viewer’s reception: the aesthetic appearance and plastic corporeality of the objects provoke a possessive appropriation by the eye, while at the same time the organic-seeming, in part unidentifiable substances in their obvious state of decay repel one. In Natascha Borowsky’s aesthetic staging, worthless, worn-out, and mundane things take on the aura of inviolable relics.
During her studies under Bernd Becher, she first created powerfully colorful works with fresh flowers on floral-patterned fabrics in which artificial and natural flowers are interwoven in patterns of correspondence (1993). With her rolled leaves and delicately wrapped small sticks (1995), her pictures then shift their coloration to tones that are more subdued and to a condensation as in a still life. Perfect camouflage situations are approached, and insects lie on animal pelts (1997): beings splayed in filigree beauty and absolute motionlessness, until one becomes aware of the beginnings of mold and pinholes in the animals’ bodies and suddenly no longer grasps the background as a well-kept fur, but as a tanned hide.
The emotional charge created by an atmosphere of harmony and stillness tips over into discomfiture and nausea. During a stay in Canada (1997-1998), Natascha Borowsky discovered in the traditional Chinese pharmacy a whole assortment of organic substances that – portioned, bundled, wrapped, or rolled – appear as precious and exotic concentrates. In the series “remedies”, they seem to float weightlessly on cooked gelatin backgrounds. This almost colorless, smooth substance that simultaneously absorbs and reflects light produces an indefinable spatiality and, together with the objects’ exotic nature, leads to a loss of familiar standards. Hence, the things seem as if transported to another realm, beyond the everyday. This is even more the case with works in which figure and ground have such similar coloration that they almost fuse. The artist calls these an “attempt at color photography without color.”
The newer photos (2001-02) testify to a return to haptic and coloristic qualities, whereby the game with size relationships continues: are these cracked surfaces dried-out, colored dough masses, or geological formations seen from a great distance? Such questions of recognizing seeing, however, offer only the entrance to Natascha Borowsky’s pictures. The spontaneous impulse to decipher the consistency and surface structure of the backgrounds and the dimensions and natural or artificial provenience of the objects displayed gives way behind the increasing development of an auratic jurisdiction. This fixates a point in the flowing continuum of time that grants each being and each thing a limited space between its appearance and its disappearance. With their realization of the individual object, the pictures develop a differentiated game between proximity and distance, knowledge and mystery, attraction and repulsion, corporeality and appearance.
Within their almost minimalistic formal givens, Natascha Borowsky’s photographic works provide scope for the finest nuances and differentiations. They thereby enable a gaze, already lost in the media era, that takes the necessary time for a careful approach and a deepened contemplation, instead of gluttonously sucking up the scurrying floods of images. The works brake the speed of such a surfing gaze and draw it down into depths whose layers ultimately prove to be impenetrable and denied to the viewer’s desire to appropriate. Here, unlike in the photographs of Karl Bloßfeldt, a contemporary artistic strategy is revealed that deals with current patterns of reception and aims at a pictorial experience that integrates ambivalences and contradictions.
Dr. Gudrun Bott in the catalog (Schirmer/Mosel) of the exhibition: “heute bis jetzt, zeitgenössische fotografie aus düsseldorf teil II”, museum kunst palast, Düsseldorf, 25 May to 25 Aug. 2002