Chiaroscuro literally means light and dark. It refers to an interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface (from Merriam Webster).
It is a technique used by painters to describe the use of strong contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume. The strong contrasts generated using chiaroscuro creates an exaggerated sense of lighting that is rarely seen in the natural world.
Yet such paintings seem compelling. Paintings and drawings fascinate because they are an artist’s interpretation of a subject. These are compelling, simply because they are a window into the mind of another person. To me, paintings incorporating chiaroscuro are engaging because they show how an artist views the world.
Photographs are data collections. There surely is no better representative of our current informational age than the digital photograph. Every photograph carries the implied meaning of being objective, being pure data. But it also means a snapshot carries no interpretation. It is only when we sense a filter through another mind, that we begin to call something art.
Photographers have to isolate subjects through selective focus, or careful framing. Painters do not have this issue, they simply do not include anything which is irrelevant! This got me thinking: Other than cropping viewpoint or making something abstract to photograph, can the medium of digital photography rise from being a set of data points to embody meaning?
Is there something I can learn from artists using an age-old medium which I can apply to photography? It occurred to me that, just as painters and illustrators express themselves with brushstrokes and graphite, I can also use the innate characteristic of photography to isolate and to express myself. And such a characteristic of photography I am using is Time. What you see are selections of the same scene from the daytime contrasting strongly with the darkness of night. The overall effect reminds me somewhat of woodcut artworks. The forms and content that are interesting becomes richer, through the contrast of light (day) and dark (night). Somehow the juxtaposition of time creates a sense of completeness for me.
In this ongoing series, I explore how my technique of temporal chiaroscuro can resemble our memories. Our memories seem to work somewhat similarly. We often have general impressions, that are broad but vague, like the colours of a sunrise. But in addition to vague recollections, we also have high-fidelity, contrasty details that we call flashbacks. Flashbacks are often limited to few details and few instances. Through these two contrasting and complementary modes of memories, we build our personal histories, broad stroke by broad stroke, detail by detail.
It is this duality I try to convey in this series, with the broad stroke of my impressions of the colours over time, but also sharp flashbacks of the bright green leaves, the geometric complexity of Singapore’s public housing, even as the sun sets into the dark night.
Prints are coming soon. If interested drop me a line.