Transcendence is the first US solo show to come from British, Paris-based photographer Anouska Beckwith, created in collaboration with young New York curator Andi Potamkin, the exhibition showcases never-before-seen works, charting Beckwith’s travels throughout rural Europe whilst exploring the psychological impact of surrounding upon photographic subject, and our reverence for each of these varying locations.
Beckwith is fascinated by the sheer power of nature to regenerate and restore, and also to destroy; this is made most clear in her series Eternity in the Garden of Sacrifice which sees a female nude thrown against vast sandstone chasms, almost disappearing in these looming, otherworldly backdrops. The series was inspired by the Buddhist belief that after a human breathes their last breath, they will wander the desert for 49 days as the good and bad karma of their former life is judged, before rebirth.
Meanwhile, in works inspired by Mother Nature and the feminine, Beckwith’s photographs remind of pre-Raphaelite paintings and the works of the Romantics. Her muses, such as young singer-songwriter Flo Morrissey, meld with their environments as Beckwith adds elements such as gold leaf directly to the print – often reworking her photographs by hand for dreamlike effect. In some of Beckwith’s most striking work, Morrisey’s body is overlaid with the wings of a butterfly; titled Chrysalis, this is archetypal of Beckwith’s work with its link to natural cycles and reincarnation.
In relating to Buddhism, spirituality and mortality, Beckwith’s work considers our place in a cosmos that she describes as “miraculous yet terrifying” in its power to create disaster, further describing her own thought process as “swinging like a pendulum from the positive left to the right, where I consider where the world is going and death is present.” A single large-scale print from this exhibition, Do Not Be Lonely, communicates this pensive thought as the small female subject looks up to a deep navy, star-filled sky, digitally painted into the image.
Transcendence marks the first time that these works have appeared on such a large scale, with some of their subjects rendered insignificant within such enormous, dramatic environments, while Beckwith’s portraiture is picked out in exquisite detail, her striking muses almost bursting out of the image amongst folds of gold-leaf and velvet butterfly wings.
Anouska Beckwith: Transcendence, until 28 June, Three Squares Studio, 444 West 17th St, New York City, NY 10011. For more information visit www.threesquaresstudio.com
1. Anouska Beckwith, Transcendence. Courtesy of the artist and Three Squares Studio.