Das Platforms / Contemporary Art

Simone Douglas: Ever

by Rhianna Walcott

19 Apr 2011

Ever is the latest series of works to be produced by Australian born, New York based photographer Simone Douglas. Marking her first exhibition in Sydney in four years, the Ever series of photographs currently showing at Artereal Gallery presents a continuation of the artist’s ongoing fascination with the ambiguity and uncertainty posed by the photographic image.

It is immediately apparent that the artist has chosen to draw upon abstracted imagery taken from the natural world, but what is not so readily apparent is an understanding of what it is you are actually looking at. You can feel recognition of the subject matter niggling at your brain and yet it is almost impossible to truly grasp what it is you are seeing.

On one wall, four large inky black photographs appear at first glance to capture the play of light upon the surface of a moving body of water. And yet this play of light is equally reminiscent of fire, with its flickering flames, glistening heat haze and twirling, floating clouds of ash and smoke. On closer inspection, the apparently black and white images begin to reveal depths of purple and green tinges which seem to disappear and reappear as you move around the work. Nothing is static and nothing is what it seems.

This challenge to the perceptual certainty and inherent truth which we attach to photographic images is a key thread which runs through all of Simone Douglas’s work. Douglas forces the viewer to think about how sight, truth, reality and vision interact. Interestingly, the artist’s photographs are in no way digitally altered, so the element of illusion found in her work does not stem from any deliberate manipulation of the photograph on the artist’s part. Instead the artist has managed to capture fractured snapshots of natural elements (such as ice, snow, clouds and mist) which simultaneously evoke both the landscape and an almost primal connection to nature. The photographs themselves seem to almost hover on the gallery walls, like windows into another dimension, surrounded by a definite aura of otherworldliness. Blossoming cloud formations, cracks and fissures within the ice and disrupted piles of snow all hint at some underlying explosive drama, but in the end there is still an ambiguous edge to each piece which leaves you wondering…

Simone Douglas is the kind of artist whose work raises more questions (both psychological and philosophical) than it answers. Indeed, her work does not seek to answer these questions but rather concerns itself with challenging our preconceived perceptions. Douglas’s photographs strip back the certainty of the image and in the process highlight the vulnerability of sight and visual perception. Leaving the viewer to consider less about the truth of what they are seeing, and more of what it is that they are feeling.