The Sense of Time Passing in Photography (Art & Design)

With John Stathatos we enter a grove, a timeless place, and feel the heart-stopping awe with which we intrude into an area holding sacred meanings which are beyond us.  The atmosphere is primitive and introverted.  The glen is full of tiny trees or bushes, with a few stems that give no indication what the original shape might have been.  The stems wind and twist and thrust, releasing a slow energy, coinciding with the artist’s need for independence in a world of readymade ideas and conscripted values, letting us brood on what life was for before we imposed our patterns on it.  Meanings accumulate with subtle allusion to what is old, unrecognisable and free.  And then a snag sets in.  One of the stems has wound round in a complete triangle and re-entered the ground.  At once we realise that every response for which the grove stands has been contradicted; not freedom purely, but compulsion, too.  One self-assertive element has gone its own way, and ended in defeat.  All our attempts to find a niche for the triangular shape end in doubt and constraint.  The mind struggles with these contradictions, searches elsewhere for resolution to the problem, and discovers a granular sheet creeping over the hillside, a white ashy layer with its own ragged character and qualities which do not extend down into the soil or match the trees, a kind of cleansing layer that has little to do with freedom, and little to do with the constraints that have followed the image.  Likenesses now compete with each other, and compete without ever getting to grips in a way which would explain these resemblances and differences with their continually changing emphasis on strength, privacy and independence.  Within the scene resemblances diverge and multiply.  Multimetaphoricity points to the condition of a poem: Stathatos gives us the photograph as poetry, and the mystery of the glen and the ongoing mystery of the photograph take on the mystery of poetry itself, for which there is also no definition, no beginning or end, and which continues to invent its suggestions as contacts within the poem relocate in moods and wonder and an enveloping expressiveness concerning the on-going past which has its counterpart in the unknown depth of our own nature.

Clifford Myerson

(Extract from The Sense of Time Passing in Photography, 1995)

Clifford Myerson
Art & Design 44