Visual Resonances

by Karin Bareman

Artist Profiles

Moving between Film and Photography – An Artist Profile of Owen Kydd

Since the start of either discipline, film and photography have been trying to morph into each other. Photography has always envied film’s capacity to capture movement, to suggest passage of time and to create narrative by means of montage. Film on the other hand has always been concerned with freezing the image, wanting to capture the decisive moment and to implant its details into the viewers’ minds. Early attempts to explore the grey area between film and photography include Eadweard Muybridge’s locomotion studies of galloping horses. Later examples are Chris Marker’s La Jetée, a film consisting solely out of still images, and Johan van der Keuken’s and Paul Graham’s photo sequences, which come close to resembling film rushes. And then there are the cinematic images carefully constructed by Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson, thus encapsulating entire movies into one single shot. The latest generation of artists to play with the dynamic between still and moving images includes Owen Kydd (b. Vancouver, 1975).

Recent developments in DSLRs have enabled artists to move much more easily between film and photography. The ongoing evolution of flat screens and computer tablets has also provided artists the means to explore alternative forms of presentation to the old-fashioned printed and mounted image or to more cinematic approaches such as the slideshow and the light box. Kydd is drawing intelligently on both these developments as well as following into the footsteps of his forebears with his so-called durational photography. The artist got drawn into exploring this grey area between film and photography, because he began to question whether it was even mechanically possible to capture the decisive moment, especially in documentary photography. Having worked as an assistant for Jeff Wall has no doubt been influential in this search.

The loops ensure simultaneously that there is no discernible narrative, providing the image with an endless quality.

Thematically, Kydd’s work can be divided into two categories. On the one hand there are the carefully constructed still lifes, drawing on this age old concept within art history. On the other hand his work can be considered almost documentary, capturing scenes he encounters in marginalized areas in large urban conurbations such as Los Angeles. Unifying his body of work is that at first sight the works seem to be still images. However, after a few seconds the viewer realises that some tiny parts of the picture are moving. The movement in itself is often very subtle and hardly noticeable. Kydd’s works are thus caught between being still images and conveying perpetual movement. In a way, Kydd’s oeuvre finds itself between animated gifs and actual film.

Kydd prefers to use a single colour background and is drawn to specific materials such as plastic to increase the tangibility of visual elements in the image. But it goes deeper than that. Materials are often chosen because they are not bio-degradable. Plastic for example will be around in perpetuity, much like the data file for the work, but unlike the old-fashioned photographic print. In this way Kydd exploits the tension between stillness and movement even more. All the works are looping films that last approximately 30 to 40 seconds and are presented on flat screens. The loops ensure simultaneously that there is no discernible narrative, providing the image with an endless quality. The end results are clean, clear and crisp images. The flat surface of the screens ensure that the viewer is acutely aware of the act of looking. Kydd’s work continually oscillates between the two-dimensional flatness of the screen and the three-dimensional experience and depiction of space.

The artist got drawn into exploring this grey area between film and photography, because he began to question whether it was even mechanically possible to capture the decisive moment, especially in documentary photography.

Owen Kydd received his B.F.A. From the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and his M.F.A. from the UCLA in Los Angeles. Recipient of the Toby Devan Lewis Award and of the Elaine Krown Klein Fine Arts Fellowship amongst others, Kydd’s work has been exhibited widely. Recent shows include Photography is Magic! at the Daegu Photo Biennale in Daegu, South-Korea (2012); Rougue Wave at the LA Louver Gallery in Los Angeles (2012), What is a Photograph? at the International Center of Photography in New York (2014), New Positions at the Thomas Zander Galerie in Cologne, LAndscape at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery in Miami (2013). The Hammer Museum Collection in Los Angeles, the Royal Bank of Canada Collection, the Granite Collection in Toronto, Canada and the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth, Australia list his works among their collections. His bibliography includes Art Forum, Ausgabe XVII, Aperture, Frieze, The Art Newspaper amongst others. Owen Kydd currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

This artist profile was first published in Foam Magazine # 38 Under Construction: New Positions in American Photography. To purchase a copy, click here.

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