Friday, July 28, 2017

'Photography in a narrow sense': Joachim Schulz

Schulz, Vase with flowers after Daniel Seghers, before 1637, 4/9, 2014-2016

There are different ways to get into the work of Joachim Schulz, some easy, some more demanding.  I took the easy route, poking through lush masses of flowers.  Who is heartless enough to resist that?  In my carefree summer mood the other day I didn't have a thought in the world for the past or future of photography and I was happy leaving its deconstruction to others.  Today what I wanted was fragrance, vibrancy, a delicacy of depth, a fervent softness.  By the merest chance some pictures by Schulz, then unknown to me, fell into my lap, the one above being one of them, and yes, that was it - I literally stopped breathing, I was gone.  

But with Schulz there is always a backstory, as I was to learn.  There is an object lesson, as if his pictures were moral tales, and often a tipping of the hat to another tradition, old or recent, or to a trail of perception almost lost because it had no champions to claim it until now, until Schulz came along.  'I do photography in a narrow sense,' he says.  More about that in a minute - back to the flowers.  

Here's what I know: he photographed, or scanned or downloaded, paintings of flowers by Flemish masters of the 17th century, which was the great period of the cartouche, the bouquet, and the garland, when wealthy burghers regarded no home complete without a painting abrim with flowers.  In Antwerp, Ghent, Utrecht and Brussels the production of such works employed hundreds of artists, if not thousands - it was on an industrial scale - not to speak of gardeners because without them you'd be nowhere.  While this was the time of Rubens and Breughel, most of the artists chosen by Schulz dedicated themselves exclusively to floral compositions and are not widely known today beyond a small circle of specialists and fans: de Fromantiou, Byss, de Heem.  But all were excellent with brush and pigment.

Next Schulz printed out the images, but not in the usual way.  He seems to have purposely jimmied the print nozzle, or perhaps he overrode the controller of the print mechanism - I haven't spoken with the artist so I'm inferring a lot here -  to allow abnormal splurges of ink to be discharged onto the print media, whether paper or acetate.  Some of you readers may have experienced the same thing but as a problem rather than a gift, when you had a mismatch of ink and media in your inkjet.  With Schulz, this surplus ink would pool and flow randomly, to create distorted forms in some areas while leaving other areas basically intact.  He didn't rest with this though but continued on, scanning the result back into his computer and printing it out again, again with the amplified print nozzle, to obtain a variation on the first print.  He repeated these steps nine times, generating what printmakers call a 'variable edition' of nine.  Alternatively you could call each print 'unique', which is what the Von Lintel Gallery of Los Angeles does in their current show of his work, Blumenstilleben, or Flower Still Lifes.  The prints there are presented as archival digital prints and measure 50 x 35 cm each.

To illustrate the changes a single image undergoes with this method, below are the first four prints (out of nine) Schulz made from a picture that Jacob van Hulsdonck painted back in 1608.  The evolution of the piece is fascinating; in its swerves and readjustments it recalls textbook diagrams of the development of an embryo, or of a city.  The concept of time is bound up within it.

Schulz, Flowers in a glass vase after Jacob van Hulsdonck, after 1608, 1/9, 2014-16

Schulz, Flowers in a glass vase after Jacob van Hulsdonck, after 1608, 2/9, 2014-16

Schulz, Flowers in a glass vase after Jacob van Hulsdonck, after 1608, 3/9, 2014-16

Schulz, Flowers in a glass vase after Jacob van Hulsdonck, after 1608, 4/9, 2014-16

Schulz brings to the task an incisive sense of modern themes and issues, from the seriality of the variable editions to his repetitive, almost industrialized method of production, in passing by the use of appropriation - taking earlier art and reworking it - a strategy as old as art itself but which in the right hands can still seem fresh and impudent.  He is foremost an experimentalist, and his work raises questions about what it is that we're looking at when we look at a photograph: are we the subjects after all, in the end, as we try to build an image from what the world has given us?  His earlier work could be viewed as a fairly odd set of photographic queries or conundrums that circle this, without ever arriving: from studies of the faint light emanating from the stage curtains of old movie houses to an essay on the patina coating decaying German bunkers as they slip into the sea.

Schulz, o.T. #3, framed behind glass, 72.5 x145.2 x 4.8 cm, 1999-2001

As to his flower still lifes, with their quirky shapes drifting lazily off the edge of the paper, their riotous color, it all makes for a highly engaging experience, rivaling what Bobby Bashir is doing more naively out in central California, and so unexpected too when considering his past efforts which make for somewhat dry viewing, truth be told.  But these flowers!  I wish he would tell me that it's OK to love them. 


  1. A few years ago I believe I saw some work by this artist, something about aura. It seemed very conceptual, trying to make a point, but wasn't that interesting beyond that. The present work is absolutely ravishing. I wonder if aesthetics guide him, or is he dealing purely with concepts and the beauty of the result is an unintended consequence. Either way, brilliant work.

  2. You claim that the concept of time is bound up with these images. Agreed, but isn't it contrived time, induced by his process, and not a real time?

    1. I use the word 'time' to suggest a sequence of degradation at a point in space (at an object) or as the scientists put it, an increase in entropy. The word may be misleading but it's a convenient expression we all employ. And of course there are those who say that time is an illusion, so the word may have little content. Thanks for the close reading of the text!

  3. baby carrier atau yang dalam bahasa Indonesia dikenal dengan ‘gendongan bayi’ ternyata bukan hanya sekedar alat gendong saja. cek websitenya, gendongan bisa menjadi lambang bagi kehangatan dan kedekatan antara sang ibu dan bayi. Sebelum klik disini seperti sekarang, gendongan hanya berupa jarik atau kain panjang saja. Kain yang digunakan pun tidak sembarangan, ada makna khususnya. Di Jawa misalnya, kain ini tidak dipotong maupun dijahit, sebagai lambang dari kesucian lihat selengkapnya. Sementara di negeri Tiongkok, warna kain harus cerah dengan motif yang memperlihatkan pengaruh mereka. Misalnya, motif naga, yang dalam kepercayaan mereka menjadi simbol bagi keberuntungan lihat lainnya disini.

    Salah satu masakan unik yang membuat orang barat keheranan dan takjub saat berkunjung ke negara kita adalah sambal lihat disini. Ya, aneka resep masakan sambal ini memang khas negara kita dan disukai oleh hampir sebagian besar masyarakat Indonesia baca disini. Bahkan sebagian besar dari kita bahkan merasa kurang saat menyantap hidangan tapi tidak ada makanan satu ini baca disini. Ada banyak sekali resep sambal yang bisa kita buat dengan mudah dan cepat di rumah ini websitenya. Sebut saja sambal bajak, sambal terasi, sambal mentah, ijo, belacan dan masih banyak sekali dengan ciri khas dan citarasa unik mereka masing-masing. Buat teman teman yang hobi pedas, berbagai macam aneka cara membuat sambal dibawah pasti bisa memanjakan lidah dan membuat ketagihan cek sekarang disini.

    Cita rasa dari Lempok durian ini sangat unik baca juga. Selain aroma durian yang kuat, Lempok durian memiliki rasa manis dan legit infonya. Selain itu memiliki tekstur yang kenyal membuat sensasi yang berbeda saat di gigit klik aja. Lempok durian bisa kita nikmati bersama teh manis dan sangat enak di nikmati saat bersantai ini websitenya. Selain sebagai jajanan khas, Lempok durian bisa kita jadikan oleh – oleh karena lempok merupakan makanan yang tahan lama baca selengkapnya