In Unison, Andrew Beck continues his production of abstract photograms, images produced on light-sensitive materials without the use of a camera or lens. Referencing minimalism, Beck’s abstractions engage with the languages of both painting and photography, confounding the viewer’s expectations about the role of the photograph as a reflection of reality.
The photogram differs from the photograph in that it is accomplished without the aid of a lens or negative. Without these mediating technologies that allow light to be focused, directed and captured, the photogram is an immediate, unique record of a moment when light met photosensitive chemical. It is also a kind of spatial situation, an intervention in the path of a source of light that verges on the sculptural. Indeed, Beck has produced site-specific installations in the past, using architectural forms as the impetus for work that questions the relationships between space and surface.
In her 2015 Art New Zealand article on Beck, Christina Barton frames his practice in terms of a Minimalist rejection of Modernism’s contention that artworks are disparate, self-contained and self-sufficient. In her view, Beck’s work adopts a position that draws on elements of both modernism and postmodernism, presenting a multivalent practice whose implications draw the viewer in a multitude of directions simultaneously.
Although his works are neither painting nor sculpture, they invoke both objects and surfaces without totally resolving to be either. The coloured acrylic that Beck places in front of his hard-edged abstract photograms transforms them into floating, luminous planes of light, sheets of colour more pure and inaccessible than any painted canvas or board. The irreality of these objects, like the rest of Beck’s work, speaks to the intangible components of the digital environment, an outsider’s perspective (Beck’s work is decidedly analogue in execution) that nevertheless captures the uneasy essence of the virtual.