Danish artist Adam Jeppesen steps into the spotlight with Closer View, our new online series complementing the digital exhibition PHOTOFAIRS PRESENTS: Cyanotype. Asking us to question what we identify as a photograph, Jeppesen’s oeuvre is impressive in its diversity. Moving away from the thinking that the photographic image is purely a depiction of reality, Jeppesen gravitates towards abstraction with grace and intelligence. ‘I’m discovering ways of reclaiming my expression more than my medium, because that is what I’m most interested in,’ he says.
On show until September 4th, PHOTOFAIRS PRESENTS: Cyanotype showcases selected works from Jeppesen’s series The Pond – a set of cyanotype linen prints depicting hands which portray his fascination with the decomposition process in ponds – and TANKS – a collection of sculptures created from pieces of silk exposed to the cyanotype process yet devoid of an image. We spoke to Jeppesen to discover more about his intriguing approach and what he discovered by using one of the oldest photographic printing processes.
“For years I’ve been exploring different printing techniques (more than photography techniques) so it wasn’t a particularly conscious decision that I wanted to work with cyanotype. Printing is a large part of my practice and I’ve been focused on seeking out techniques that are sensitive to my actions as a photographer. I’ve always been drawn to those processes where I could be more experimental while still achieving a successful result. For example, some photography techniques are incredibly sensitive to the way that you treat them and if you start to play with the process you end up completely destroying the print and there’s no image left.
“I initially began to work with blueprints, which is basically light-sensitive photo paper originally designed for architecture plans. You put the exposed paper in a bath of ammonium. The paper hovers above the liquid and is developed in the gas. It’s kind of a nasty technique (because of the smell!) but it is magical too. It had the same effect on me as my first experience in the darkroom. Yet the blueprint process is purely paper-based, which I find a bit limiting. Paper is such a sensitive medium. I started to look for other techniques where I could transfer the photographic image onto other materials. I wanted to be able to be a bit rough with the materials too. I’d become very attracted to the idea of printing onto fabric.
“I hadn’t really been into cyanotype for my own practice before as I’d largely seen it used in a very traditional sense as a photogram, where objects were placed onto the paper leaving outlines and white cut-out shapes. This aesthetic wasn’t quite right for what I wanted to express but then I came across work where a negative is used during the printing process to create the image in cyanotype, which I found far more appealing. I thought ‘Ah, this is what I’ve been looking for!’ in terms of the sensitivity and overall delicacy in the final piece. I then started experimenting, which slowly developed into The Pond series.
“I work on multiple projects simultaneously (I might have three or four on the go) so a lot of the time projects cross paths and start to become aligned. I started my series Tanks earlier than The Pond. I was looking at the silk and how it could relate to ideas relating to shelter. I was interested in looking at tents, how they are used in deserts and how different people around the world use the fabric as a form of shelter. The first sheets of fabric had more legible images on them. I then became interested in photograms and taking the process to the limit of what one could consider to still be in the realm of photography. My experimentations with cyanotype then merged with this project.
“It’s been a personal interest of mine to move away from what we tend to define as photography. For me photography always seems to be self-reflective. At times I find that’s a limitation to the medium. When I look at art in general I don’t think of it in terms of technique. I might consider the materiality, so I begin to question how the artist has used the materials to work with what they’re trying to express, but I’m not concerned with categorising it as a photograph, painting or sculpture.
“This is not a conscious decision and it’s not a rebellious action towards the medium, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just simply a means of finding the right way to express what I’d like to say. Right now I’m creating works that have nothing to do with photography but I’m also working on something that is probably the most rooted in the medium that I’ve ever made!
“The cyanotype really opened my thinking towards working with photographic works but using a material that took them away from being purely two-dimensional. Some of the pieces in The Pond are large pieces of fabric. I have some in my studio which are huge that I haven’t shown yet. You can spread them out on the floor, fold them up and carry them away.
“This idea of being physical with the artwork is very important to me and I feel like the cyanotype process has allowed me to really explore this engagement and interaction. There’s a beautiful rhythm to creating cyanotypes which I hadn’t really experienced before. The process doesn’t require precision allowing you focus more on expression rather than technique.”