Jean-Baptiste Huynh, Miroir 28, 2007

March 2 – April 16, 2022

Our present exhibition, “Studies in Light,” explores the photography of two artists – Jean-Baptiste Huynh, from Paris, France, and Garry Fabian Miller, from Dartmoor, England. At first glance – it is an unusual pairing of works – Jean-Baptiste Huynh’s photographs are macro pictures of ancient, polished stone mirrors. Garry Fabian Miller’s photographs are pure transmissions of light through colored vessels onto photographic emulsions. One photographer makes prints that are specific reproductions of objects, and the second uses only light and color with no objects referenced. However, both photographers take the viewer out of the realm of ‘normal’ representative photographic practice and work mainly with light, texture, abstraction, and color. Ultimately, nature is of central importance and becomes the motivating influence in both photographers’ work. They both see with the eyes of an artist, rather than an observer. 

Our present exhibition, “Studies in Light,” explores the photography of two artists – Jean-Baptiste Huynh, from Paris, France, and Garry Fabian Miller, from Dartmoor, England. At first glance – it is an unusual pairing of works – Jean-Baptiste Huynh’s photographs are macro pictures of ancient, polished stone mirrors. Garry Fabian Miller’s photographs are pure transmissions of light through colored vessels onto photographic emulsions. One photographer makes prints that are specific reproductions of objects, and the second uses only light and color with no objects referenced. However, both photographers take the viewer out of the realm of ‘normal’ representative photographic practice and work mainly with light, texture, abstraction, and color. Ultimately, nature is of central importance and becomes the motivating influence in both photographers’ work. They both see with the eyes of an artist, rather than an observer.

Using a semiotic model, there is a disruption between the signifier (the subject of the photograph) and the signified in both bodies of work. There is no clear link between what is being photographed and what we are seeing. The implicit intent is to open a space for abstraction and disconnect the source material from the final photograph. Thus, the pictures take on their own lives. We no longer recognize the objects used in the photograph’s production. Fabian Miller and Huynh both demonstrate an agency where their own ideas of content and composition are achieved in the resultant photographs that are fashioned through focus, scale and size./p>

Jean-Baptiste Huynh has made various bodies of work – from portraits to nudes to objects recognizable in their references – but the “Miroirs” (Mirrors) is an intentional departure. They are studies of how nature, over time, oxidizes materials and transforms an object into an artifact that has a unique relationship to history.  In his book, Nature, Jean-Baptiste Huynh says that he, “has spent the last 30 years traveling the world in search of origins known and unknown, treading the imaginary line between otherness and an inner voyage.”

The “Miroirs” series, taken between 2008 – 2017, are photographs made of archeological stone mirrors from the collection of the Louvre Museum that have oxidized over time. They are small objects that served, in their past lives, to reflect a subject’s likeness. These mirrors were present in Asian, Etruscan, Egyptian, and Roman cultures. They functioned as instruments of self-knowledge and observation. In this body of work, the objects become unrecognizable as mirrors. They have become so covered with a thick patina over time that they lose the ability to reflect. Huynh has subverted their normal identity and they become ambiguous in the photographs. Moreover, through the physical change of the mirrors the viewer can often think they are looking at images of heavenly bodies in space.

One recalls one of the most famous images of all time, NASA’s Apollo 17, “Blue Marble.” The mirrors are photographed on a background of black velvet that resembles the night sky. The irregular surfaces produce an array of textures and colors – and can seem to appear as the topography of worlds onto themselves. Light becomes absorbed within the spheres, and the total disk takes on a larger-than-life perspective. Jean-Baptiste Huynh has shown this body of work at the Louvre in 2012, and most recently, at the Museé Guimet in Paris in 2019.

Garry Fabian Miller lives in Dartmoor – amid an ancient forest with Bronze Age ruins, vast landscapes, and changing climate that transform his environment on a seasonal basis. He walks the rugged landscape, deep in thought, and comments that every picture he makes is inspired and is transformed by nature. He lives nearby, with his private gardens and ponds, and his glass-walled studio — welcoming nature into his every-day work. His pictures involve multiple exposures where he carefully maps out the parts of cibachrome paper where he wants to register each color. Garry Fabian Miller’s photographic practice evolved over time. His first significant works captured the sea, land, and sky’s horizons in photographs he produced in the 1970s. In the 1980s, Fabian Miller forgoes the camera and creates his pictures through direct manipulations of pure light and color.

He summarizes, “My work is about to try and create a thinking space, but also a kind of place that one can disappear into and perhaps not come back from.” The journey one takes while standing in front of the pictures and letting their brilliant colors wash over is almost trance-like. The margin between the colors creates deep, transitory spaces that connect the optics of seeing with a profound introspective depth. The distillation of light and color, for Fabian Miller is in itself an act of meditation. Garry Fabian Miller’s work has been exhibited at major museums, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to name a few, as well as galleries globally. He is unique both in his photographic practice and his aspirations.

A commonality between the “Miroirs” of Jean-Baptiste Huynh and the camera-less pictures of Garry Fabian Miller is that the photographs become works of art themselves. They do not point directly to any outside phenomena for their understanding. The image is no longer transcendent. If one loosely compares their work to either abstract or color field painting, then the concepts of color harmony, composition, treatment of space, and texture become essential in appreciating the photographs. They are each metaphorically constructing their own cosmos. Both artists create bodies of photographs that capture and transform light. In a broader context, since photography’s foundation in the 1830’s – this has been the purpose of the medium. In photography’s infancy, the public looked upon it as magic. In this exhibition, “Studies in Light,” the dynamic and luminous surfaces of the photographs still have the magic that speaks to the wonder and beauty of both the artworks and life itself.