Print Edition - 2014-12-27  |  On Saturday

Slow takes

  • ‘Pulse’, a collection of photographs by Paivi Maria Wells, are long-exposure shots of the people, birds and the cityscape of the Valley taken during her stay in Nepal
- Nhooja Tuladhar
Slow takes

Dec 26, 2014-I first saw Paivi Maria Wells’ photographs through an emailed press-release. It was a small-sized photo attachment cum invitation which led me to a series of Google searches to find more of her work. What I found were long-exposure photographs of vast landscapes in motion. Most of them were divided horizontally into two: the heavens and the water bodies. Hardly any hard edges, and different colours diffused into one another—this wasn’t your usual landscape encompassing the sky, clouds, rocks and hills and water. Everything was lush and had an almost silk-like quality. So good, so soothing, to the eyes it had appeared even through an LCD computer screen. Undoubtedly, there was more to her works than just sheer visual delight.

And despite the fact that Wells’ photographs had proved therapeutic for me during work, I failed to make it to Wells’ show titled “Solitude”. And this time, when another invitation came about, I made it a point to not not go.

What was on display took me by surprise. On my way to Image Ark Gallery in Patan, I had thought of and expected to see minimalist photographs of a similar nature to the ones I had seen in her website some seven months ago. But this time around, there was more light and more activity going on within the frames. Unlike works from Wells’ last exhibition, this one had human presence.

Her earlier series, I had found to be meditative and of self-contemplation. The way I analysed it, “Solitude” was about landscapes from her home and herself. There was nothing in between, if you do not count the camera—a mere medium to capture the abstract dialogue between the artist and her subject or her home.

But “Pulse”, which was inaugurated on December 8, is meditative in a whole different way. It is a collection of almost 30 photographs that depict Nepal, mostly the Valley, the same way the artist had chosen to depict—in terms of technique—her home town, but while in “Solitude” the landscape dominated, giving off a more romantic essence, “Pulse” is more of the living, firstly because it depicts human activities and

birds and secondly because of the more saturated hues as opposed to the earlier collection.

The compositions are dominated by hues of yellow and red along with the ever-present white of the overexposed parts. And because the shutter of the camera has been opened for a longer period, there are multiple layers of back-and-foreground, bringing the works closer to a painting rather than a photograph. And through these layers, Wells transforms postcard-friendly scenes into works of art.  Some of them look like watercolour works while others look as if they have been washed on top by a thin layer of acrylic paint, covering certain parts and leaving out some.

It’s contradicting. Because the technique Wells has implemented needs the photographer to stay in one place for a longer time—it lets the person behind the camera do more observing. But the outcome makes you feel like the frame captures a fleeting moment, like a futuristic painting. The photographer has managed to capture, in one shot, a succession of images, a succession of movements of both the subject and the light.

And looking at the photographs makes me want to witness the artist at work. Through the pictures—and reading her statement—it is evident that she makes certain camera movements—while the shutter is open—that let allow her to get the desired effect in her photos. This makes the highlights stand out, creating swivels of light-lines.

Apart from the framed photographs, the gallery houses a few other works.

On the first floor is a collection of what is titled ‘wearable art’. There are merino wool and organza shawls and crepe de Chine shirts that feature Wells’ photographs. This collection is a collaboration between the artist and cashmere company owner Nila Sattar. The fabrics,

which have Well’s Finnish seascapes printed on them look exquisite, but, I prefer the original works nonetheless. But I have to admit that collaborations like these are necessary as they open up newer possibilities and provide a very different kind of exposure to an artist and her work.

After a stroll around the fabrics, touching them and admiring the print, I went down again. Back to the clean white frames that housed my Nepal through a very different eye. It’s probably because I am so used to seeing crisp, sharp—and in recent days HDR—photographs of pagodas and people feeding birds at durbar squares that Wells’s take on Kathmandu and its people has proved, for me, a respite. While, the artist has tried to find home in the colours of Kathmandu—a stark contrast to the Gulf of Bothnia—it has provided me with a refreshed view of my home.

The exhibition is on till January 8.

Published: 27-12-2014 09:07

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