Amid grandiose landscapes, unusual shapes arise. A postcard view shares the space of a large-scale photograph with an ordinary individual, holding an ordinary object. Scarlett Hooft Graafland is an artist who uses dramatic landscapes to incorporate unreal elements. The Flowers Gallery displays “Discovery”, a series of photographs which strike by their audacity, and ease by their fluidity.
The way the subjects are displayed derive from the conventional presentation of a photograph. The narrative wants to shock and alert the viewers, whose first impression is to be baffled by the foreground subjects. As the eyes travel the entire photograph, underlying meanings emerge, and become greater than the picture itself. We are therefore tempted to delve into questions, and further introspection. One of the things I asked myself was, ‘Why are these banal subjects part of these dream-like landscapes?’
Hooft Graafland is an explorer, not only of diverse social spheres, but also of the world itself. More specifically, she has travelled from the salt desert of Bolivia to the desolate Canadian Arctic, the island of Madagascar and the remote shores of Vanuatu to bring back unforeseen shots. Together with locals she sets up her vision, using harmless props and temporary accessories, leaving the land she nourishes by her real-life collages intact.
One by one, as I peel off the layers, I am left with culturally engaging debates. Alone in an arid area, stepping onto what’s left of a tide, a man holds several inflatable green boats. Canoes are placed on bare white sand, tipped with black men’s knees. In another photograph, legs encircle a two-headed cactus in the middle of a deserted landscape, while a turtle shell covers a body in a child’s pose, facing a river. More controversial in our current era, a trio of women wearing the full burka and holding phallic shaped balloons pose on the beach, in front of a transparent blue water. Is this provocation? Instinctively that is my first thought. But the peace and tranquility of the images and the poses conferred to the whole picture re-directs my judgments into softer interpretations.
As strange as these individuals appear on these photographs, this is reality disguised in ethereal environments. Hooft Graafland highlights our confused culture with humour and spatial offset. The further we step back from a familiar background, the better we can come face to face with facts. In a world where instant photography predominates, it seems that simple subjects such as religion, minorities, and discrimination extrapolate to unrelated superficial discourses, or on the contrary, they are being buried under other forms of made up belief invented to prevent from critical thinking. The artist’s artwork, I feel, aims to stop agitated and rebellious minds, to gather their tumultuous viewpoints and judgments towards the authenticity of the world and untouched civilizations.
Discovery: Scarlett Hooft Graafland At Flowers Gallery (29 March – 29 April 2017)