Luminous Visions: Joanne Dugan: Persistent Awakening
In her series Persistent Awakening, Joanne Dugan’s meticulously composed pieces exist at the intersection of painting and photography. The one-of-a-kind, collaged works merge her practice of using analog photographic materials with her long-term meditation practice. Using an experimental palette of silver gelatin paper and cyanotype, Dugan embraces the limitations of historic analog photography tools while exploring their potential for creating mindful, slowly-created works. With these pieces, she re-contextualizes photographic processes into repetitive gridded compositions in which the artist’s hand is evident. Inspired by Abstract Expressionist, Minimalist painting, and numerous experimental photographers working in abstraction, Dugan invites imperfection and unpredictability into her practice by employing intensive chemical alterations and abstract painting techniques.
Named for various Buddhist concepts, each piece takes up to several months to render. This slow approach to working allows a piece to reveal itself upon careful, repeated viewing. In many of the grids, a rogue compositional element breaks the pattern she establishes. This deviation represents the flash of insight that occurs through her meditative practice, called ‘Satori’ in Buddhist practice. This visual representation of various states of heightened consciousness engages the viewer and evokes a sense of quiet contemplation.
“These pieces are a way to process and transform the uncertainty around me into hope, and to re-interpret and celebrate the traditional photographic materials I have worked with for decades.”
‘Persistent Awakening’ will be premiered at Dugan’s first solo exhibition in the UK at Black Box Projects in London, May 3 – 15 at Cromwell Place. For more information:
Follow Joanne Dugan on Instagram: @joannemdugan
I use traditional analog photographic materials in unconventional ways to make collages that refer historic methods of making photographs, while also exploring the use of abstract light as an expanding visual subject. Directly inspired by my ongoing meditation practice, the handmade works are informed by the traditions in various spiritual disciplines of using graphic visual aids to deepen awareness, including the Tantric yantra, a form of sacred geometric diagram. Other influences include architecture, abstract painting and jazz. The final gridded pieces are meant to visually evoke various states of mindfulness and consciousness, and to actively encourage slow and engaged looking.
This project connects my ongoing and imperfect pursuit spiritual enlightenment with photography’s relationship to light. Named for and inspired by Buddhist concepts, the works began as a response to Covid times, when I merged my artistic practice of rendering light onto sensitized photographic papers with a long-term meditation practice. My goal is to bring to the surface what I discover while consciously sitting quietly, and these works are the outcome. Each piece is a way to process and transform the uncertainty around me into hope, and to recontextualize and celebrate the traditional photographic materials I have worked with for decades.
Joanne Dugan is a process-based visual artist who uses traditional photographic materials to create abstract conceptual works inspired by mindfulness meditation practices and her fascination with science and chance.
Working with the nearly 200-year-old practice of rendering light directly onto chemically-coated papers, Dugan recontextualizes two of analog photography’s most notable printing techniques—Silver Gelatin and Cyanotype—as she examines the infinite possibilities of using light and repetition to create imagery that evokes contemplation. The final gridded, collaged pieces are equally informed by technical process and intuition.
The works—often abstract typologies of camera-less photograms cut and assembled by hand, explore the intersections between photography and painting. They are printed slowly in a traditional photographic wet darkroom, as well as outside in open air. Both approaches celebrate light as a mystical, contemplative subject. Dugan finds inspiration in the Buddhist Mandala, the Tantric Yantra (ancient geometric renderings used in meditation) and cultural references including modernist architecture, abstract expressionist painting and jazz.
Many of the one-of-a-kind works incorporate a visual ‘disruption,’ in which one frame in a repetitive composition stands out as different from the others. This is meant to symbolize the flash of insight that can occur in meditation. In Buddhist practice, this awakening is sometimes called Satori, or enlightenment. Some pieces also reference and reinterpret the rudimentary analog darkroom objects used in the creation of the pieces. The daughter of a research chemist, Dugan’s practice blends experimental chemical interventions with hand-cutting and painting techniques, while also channeling the unpredictability and imperfection found in vintage photographic printing methods.
Dugan’s works have been exhibited in the United States, England, Germany, Poland, Amsterdam and Japan. They are part of many public and private collections and have been featured in Photograph Magazine, the Harvard Review and the New York Times T Magazine, among others.
As an author, Dugan’s image/text pairings have been published in seven books, including two fine-art monographs. Her limited-edition artist book Mostly True is in the permanent library collections of The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The NY Public Library and The George Eastman House. She is the editor of Summertime (Chronicle Books), a hardcover photography book featuring the work 46 emerging and established photographers. She is a faculty member of the International Center of Photography in NYC and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA and has taught and lectured about the creative process in numerous institutions across the country.
Galina Kurlat (b. 1981, Russia) is a photographic artist living in Brooklyn, NY, she earned her BFA in Media Arts from Pratt Institute. Kurlat creates a visual relationship between herself and her subject by embracing the imperfections and possibilities of antiquated photographic processes. Kurlat’s work been shown in Korea, India, Scotland, France and the US. Recent exhibitions include “Anatomy of Loss”, Pictura Gallery in Bloomington IN, “Shadow Play”, Peter Halpert Fine Art in NYC, “Process”, Studio Bizio in Edinburgh, “Touch me Touch you”, Jinju International Photo Festival, South Korea, “Self-Processing- Instant Photography”, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA. Her work is collected throughout the US and abroad. Kurlat has been published in Oxford American, Analog Forever Magazine, Lenscratch, aPhotoEditor, Fraction Magazine, Houston Chronicle, Diffusion IX and Fraction of a Second, Radius Books along with numerous other periodicals and catalogs. She is the cofounder of Main Street Projects, an artist-run organization in Houston that has hosted over 150 local, national and international artists to date. MSP is an artists’ initiative which brings art into urban surroundings. During 2005-2011 Kurlat curated a number of multi-media and site specific exhibitions in alternate spaces throughout NYC.
Follow Galina Kurlat on Instagram: @galinakurlat
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