Function 1, 8 2018
I was absolutely thrilled when artist & writer Lisa Holden was inspired to write this wonderful text about the current LANG exhibition Form & Function by Chloe Rosser on display at Photofusion in Brixton until 18 June 2018. It is a pleasure to have this as a guest post.
Function 2, 3 2018
Form & Function
Chloe Rosser photographs the human body, naked, contorted, within the confines of plain domestic spaces. Her models strike sculptural poses – they lean, sit, slant, twist – but always avoiding references to classical statuary or art historical nudes. And Rosser’s models never show their faces. So, what’s going on? By anonymising her sitters, and accentuating skin tone and gesture, Rosser’s images could almost be interpreted as a conversation about identity. After all, photography is a medium that lends itself to concocting identities through disguise, concealment or digital tweaking. But both of these series can also be read differently. The images shift constantly from the specific to the abstract, hinting at a totemic, symbolic meaning. The contours and shadowing suggest archetypal shapes and remind us of the clay figurines and artefacts from prehistoric cultures. Perhaps Rosser’s human ‘forms’ are also an invitation to imagine the body not simply as a thing of flesh and bone, but as a tool for tapping into the collective memory of mankind, the genetic code within ourselves.
Self-Portrait (Back with Arms Above) 1984
©The Estate of John Coplans
Seen in this light, Rosser’s models are anything but anonymous; they are universal. They are us, we are them. And if the body is capable of accessing this primordial coded language, then Rosser’s subjects, photographed singly or in groupings, can be read as a visual expression of something primordial and ancient. Something the late photographer John Coplans (with whom Rosser’s work shares some common ground) calls ‘a memory of our past ancestry’. Coplans – born in London and originally trained as a painter – photographed his own body in later life, depersonalising it, turning into a play of light and dark, mass and form.
Function 6, 9 2018
Rosser’s approach to the body is not dissimilar – her ‘forms’ are equally abstract, almost bordering on the surreal. Unlike Coplans’ grainy black and white imagery, however, Rosser’s visual language has an almost brittle clarity. The formal execution of the images contrasts with the models’ soft flesh, knobby spines and straining muscles. And draws us in, to look closer and pick up on other contrasts – skin against laminate wood, against plaster, against carpet. A thigh disappears into a wall. Shoulders are shoved into a floor. The sense of the surreal, even the uncanny, is unmistakable. What are we looking at? Why are these forms here, in these spaces? What are they doing here?
Function 4, 1 2018
The models in Rosser’s photographs may pose alone or together – some are total strangers, others close companions. Always calm, respectful. There are no divides here. Framed by neutral spaces, Rosser’s ‘forms’ tell stories, and some are about us – snatches of collective memory that speak of what has been and dream of what may come.
Chloe Rosser & Laura Noble are running a full-day workshop, Exploring the Body in Photography - on Saturday 16th June at Photofusion. This will include live life models, strictly limited to 10 places. There are a couple of places left. You can find all the details here.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
Chloe Rosser’s first book, Form and Function, is in the making! There’s still time to get involved with the Kickstarter campaign. The Kickstarter ends at 5.30 pm, 18th June. Here's a link if you would like to support it. Thank you