Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jorma Puranen: Seeing the Light

Don’t you just hate it when you walk up to, say, a dark Rembrandt painting and instead of seeing, a work by the old master, you see a reflection of your old self?

Finnish photographer Jorma Puranen, not only doesn't mind reflection off a painted surface, he embraces it. Earlier this year at the Armory Show, I encountered his photographs of glare-frosted paintings, part of a series called "Shadows, Reflections, and All That Sort of Thing."  

Puranen photographs historic portraits as objects, emphasizing the reflective surfaces and aged paint. By obscuring the image, Puranen reveals a whole lot about how we see.

While looking at these ghostly apparitions it became clear how committed we are to our suspension of disbelief, when viewing traditional portraiture. Maintaining the illusion is so essential, that our brains automatically edit out any environmental factor that may interfere with our peering into the soul of the sitter. That is, the illusion of a sitter whose image our brain has allowed itself to be deceived into seeing.

All but the last two images here are from the website of the Helsinki School. The last two, are my photos of the pictures, from the Armory Show, where you'll see I had no choice but to embrace the glass.

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