Discovering new terrain in order to produce abstract images that question our traditional ways of seeing.
Since completing her two year MA in Fine Art Photography at The Royal College of Arts, Erola Arcalís continues use poetic text and the lyricism of the black and white photographic image to create fictional narratives. Growing up in Mallorca, surrounded by a mediterranean landscape has influenced her practice as she seeks images of natural forms when travelling to different places to document and retain new material. Mythology, personal experience, dream and fiction are integral to her process. In her interview with DATEAGLE ART, Arcalís explains why she finds her time in the dark room meditative, discusses some of her favourite literature and why poetic text helps her connect the dots between the images she documents on her travels.
Your process involves a lot of physical movement; operating the machinery in the dark room and working with large scale images. How does this inform your work – would you say it adds to the personal connection you have with each creation?
Indeed the black and white printing process in large scale can be quiet a physical one. At the same time it also requires one to be actively keeping a record and checking exposure times, focus, aperture. Normally, I would be handling paper that is 1.30m wide and would roll the print through each of the chemicals for several minutes. I find the coordination of all those elements in the darkness deeply engaging. The time spent in the darkroom it’s meditative and exciting – it slips through your fingers without you realising. It’s this feeling of timelessness that allows me to re-connect with the places or objects I have taken the images of or seen. The results that come out from every negative are often a mystery and that teaches me not to take any image for granted.
You mention that digital and fine art photography have completely different languages from one another, can you explain how?
Well, there is digital fine art photography too. Though I think the process of making an image is significantly different from digital to analogue. Only the time that takes to produce one single picture with a large format camera – travelling with the equipment, setting it up, loading the film sheets, processing the film, maybe scanning, darkroom printing. All of that process requires you to have quiet a clear idea on the choice you make before taking the picture; and also leaves you with full responsibility and control for the making of the image. One could argue that a photographer who works digitally could take the same amount of hours composing a still life or retouching in Photoshop and that is just as valuable, but it is a different process in essence.
Although text is not present in your work, can you explain how it inspires your practice?
I often find myself with many images in my mind that don’t seem to have apparent connections or narratives. Text, especially poetic text, helps me to link the dots or to embrace their disparities.
Can you name a few of your favourite pieces of literature and/or poetry?
Company, by Samuel Beckett; Float, by Anne Carson; The Wasteland, by T.S. Eliott; The Metamorphoses, by Ovid.
Can you explain how you source your images?
It’s a combination of quiet a conscious process and a completely organic one. Through reading some of the texts mentioned above, on road trips, looking at paintings, there are always some particular images that stay with me and then I think I want to re-create them or find that space or object. After that though, there is always some elements of improvisation that transform the original idea.
The power of association seems to resonate strongly with you, whether you are travelling somewhere completely out of context or placing an object in an unfamiliar setting – can you explain this further?
Yes, the removal of myself or the object from a familiar context is necessary to be able to look with fresh eyes. That is why often the main motivation to produce a new image is a trip somewhere that is new to me. How I relate to that space or object while I feel unsettled around it. My interest is focused in creating images that are suggestive rather than descriptive. I want to invite the viewer to establish her/his own personal resonances to the images and interpret them freely, while bringing some elements of mythology in.
Your images focus on the abstraction of the natural landscape and makeshift objects – what is your fascination with the two?
As a child I grew up in the countryside of Menorca, a quiet, tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea. One of mine and my brothers favourite games was to collect random objects from the forest or the shore – driftwood, rocks with intriguing shapes – assign it a meaning and build something with it – a shelter, a bow and arrow, a fortress. We used to explore the landscape thoroughly and listen to all those stories from our parents about it, always leaving some uncertainty about its truthfulness. So, I guess it’s my upbringing that motivated those interests.
Your last show ‘A Corner With’ used references of Greek mythology as a guide and was lit in red, similar to that of a dark room – can you explain the motivations behind this?
In ‘A Corner With’ I was invited to use a room, so I decided to play with the lighting, inviting the viewer to an intimate atmosphere. The light was orange-red, resembling that one used in the darkroom, which interested me mostly because it cancels any other colour out, re-enforcing the monochrome qualities of the image. The eye is challenged to look closer to the shapes, dimension and textures of the images and becomes aware of how the body and the space’s perception transform. The red light served too as a stage lighting for poet Joshua Leon, whom I invited to perform as part of the show.
Is there a particular reason why you do not experiment with the human form in your work?
I am not sure, I suppose I find it too recognisable if that makes sense; or perhaps I have not experimented yet enough with it.
What would you like to do next?
I am still in the very early stages of my research, but I will be on the road to the south of France very soon to explore new terrains.
Words by Lara Monro