Christopher Young is not interested in photography, not, at least, in the media-based art form in which good and bad photographs coincide neatly with good and bad art and one picture is worth a thousand words.

Despite the impressive, painstaking techniques which he deploys in his drei series, photography remains, primarily, a means to his artistic ends. He is obsessed with the mysteries of human presence in a world of objects always decaying, the before and after of being, traces of which lurk in every photograph ever made. In nominating two of his large-scale images, side by side, as one work, he challenges both himself and the viewer to establish a single coherent presence in relation to both.

In drei #04/#05 he chose two from a series of ‘excerpts’, interior shots of an abandoned medical centre that he had never previously seen. They are both exquisite, balanced minimal compositions with their colours carefully muted save for the turquoise blue plastic chair seat to the right. To that extent they speak to each other. Beyond that, however, there is no visual continuity, no seamless logical space between them.

One angle of vision cancels the other, separate light sources are skewed, over and into both images. These undefined, shifting, almost shapeless volumes leave the eye untethered, free to bump against objects and the traces of those who used them. Switches are to turn, on or off, doors to close or open. The viewer is prompted to an archaeology of presence. Neither narrative nor mystery, it is a matter of what was and what now is. It becomes clear that every object bears the marks of use and aging.

Cream plastic and paint turn brown. The carpet is scuffed and there are chips missing from the paint work at the bottom of the door in the right hand image. Barely noticeable events stir slightly. The left-hand door is open to the smallest degree possible without being closed. The reflections in the glass cabinet in the right-hand image will soon change forever. Absence grows from presence.


david bromfield

David Bromfield is a critic, writer and curator based in East Perth. He has written several books on Western Australian artists including his latest CODES on Janis Nedela (2008). He is also director of the KURB gallery, a cooperative space in William Street Northbridge.

This essay is from a limited edition book that was produced in support of the first complete exhibition of drei.

drei - the book