“If we have seen a building before the image, the photograph shifts our perception, either culturally or subjectively,” says Art Historian Therese Lichtenstein in the current issue of Aesthetica, speaking about Image Buildling, a new exhibition opening this month at Parrish Art Museum. Silver Lion winner Bas Princen (b. 1975) is an acclaimed architectural photographer whose work challenges how audiences perceive buildings in relation to their surroundings. An exhibition at Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, is dedicated to exploring the practitioner’s ongoing examination of the relationship between structures and their pictorial representation.
Princen is primarily concerned with the effects of translating a three-dimensional structure onto a flat image, using two-dimensional compositions to further grapple with the spatial and material qualities of architecture. Employing a unique technique of printing on Japanese rice paper, the artist objectifies the urban space using naturalistic methods, altering the ways in which viewers perceive pictures as material objects in their own right.
Whilst best-known for his depictions of globalised structures overtaking the organic landscape, Princen’s newest body of work takes a different turn, giving structures new visual contexts through the use of minimalist abstraction. The subjects fluctuate between different styles and time periods: from the infrastructure of the first Crystal Palace to Italian Renaissance buildings, a gargoyle atop the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and even the New York skyline of the 1930s. However, what ties together these different time periods and relational contexts is the notion of anonymity. Each composition is cropped so that its architectural details, such as cracks or sections of wall paintings, become the focus, rather than the overall building, further questioning what it means to perceive and understand the world around us through detail.
Highlights from the show include Details of The New Yorker (pictured above) and the Chrystal Palace, which, rendered in monochromatic film, immerse audiences in the sheer monolithic nature of progressive skyscrapers, commenting upon the moment where nature is minimised, and urbanity takes over.
Bas Princen. Image and Architecture is at Weil am Rhein until 5 August. More information can be found here.
For more information on Image Building, including its accompanying publication published by Prestel, find out more here.
1. Detail #6 (View of the New Yorker, Ilse Bing, silver gelatin print, 1936, collection CCA, Montreal), 2018 © Bas Princen.