Dirk Braeckman’s work brings a sense of stillness and tranquillity to today’s constant tide of images. Working with analogue photography, towards the end of the 1980s, he found a visual language of his own that focuses on the act of viewing and reflects on the status of the image. The artist explores the boundaries of his medium and challenges photographic conventions. The camera’s flash reflects off the surface of the subject, the texture of walls, curtains, carpets and posters. His images show anonymous subjects from his immediate surroundings. Stripped of anecdote, the stories they suggest are entirely open. The artist shows empty rooms in which time appears to stand still, elements of interchangeable interiors or human figures that stand only for presence – separated from any specific identity, place, time or emotion. Braeckman’s photographic images combine intimacy and distance to create a private, secluded world whose meaning remains undefined.
The Belgian pavilion is presenting a series of monumental prints on baryta paper. The unique, analogue prints are made from negatives from Braeckman’s archive, with the artist sometimes creating multiple images from the same source. Although some works also use colour and were made digitally, the exhibition focuses on monumental work in grey tones, produced in Braeckman’s darkroom.
These artworks pose a challenge to today’s ubiquitous image consumption. They are recognizable, yet flirt with representation, abstraction and the reality of what is shown. Braeckman is not interested in photographic editions or in registering moments that document fragments of reality. He looks for open images with a special charge, which withhold as well as divulge information, giving them the power to hold the viewer’s gaze.
“The moment you enter the pavilion, your gaze is pulled towards certain works. Some are hung in pairs or form a series, as they are prints from the same negative. Other works hang on their own and have been given the space to tell their own story, without too much influence from the images displayed around them.’ The photographs are charged with pent-up tension, yet the exhibition conveys a certain tranquillity.”