Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dirk Braeckman

A game of lines and patterns in tiled walls, windows, branches of trees, masonry, and variations in the landscape. The cracks in an oil painting or the stretch marks on a woman’s stomach. The rhythm of a staircase. The textures of a carpet, fabric, wallpaper. Dirk Braeckman (Eeklo, Belgium, 1949) looks deep into the being of things.

Braeckman cuts into time and space and offers us access to a closed world to which we attach meaning. He doesn’t attempt to give a weight to this meaning. He reduces and blows up the detail of the subject to become the main focus. The result is disquieting without becoming alienating. The underlying repetition and the balanced patterns give it this fine balance. It possesses purity, the purity of simplicity.

Braeckman approaches his subject so closely that the image becomes unavoidable, uneasy even. By keeping the image dark and grey or by printing the images out of focus, Braeckman eliminates the part of the information that could distract from the essence. By doing this he avoids the anecdotes and the recognisable, for him it is about the image itself and the recording of the space.

He investigates things that could easily go un-noticed, places that give the impression of being inhabited in some way, where time has passed or where people have been through a lot, although you can never be sure of anything. Harsh, direct flashlight bounces off the photographed subjects. The image in a painting is burnt out, returned to an irregular, refracted level. My glance recoils. It demands effort to look at the deeper meaning within the image. The photos deal with what cannot be portrayed. Braeckman’s theme lies in the twilight zone between concealment and exposure.

Images of empty interiors, apparently photographed as an afterthought, are interchanged with images of female nudes. Just as much as they are close-up, the images are subtle and steer away from emphasising form and texture. By placing the nudes next to the interiors Braeckman gives life to the inanimate objects and thus shows us death in life. His work straddles the line between life and death.

The twilight is accentuated by the deep blacks and sombre greys in Braeckman’s monochrome palette. These tints give the photographed subjects a barren quality and emphasise the desolation of the interiors and the female bodies. In spite of this barren quality, the photos are rich with nuance. Simultaneously refined and suggestive: you catch a glimpse of a personal story behind these big black and white, but prominently grey photographs.

© Pim Milo. GUP: Guide to Unique Photography, issue 13, 2008