Behind Kala and the Guardians and a bit about conceptual photography., a Sawidji collaborative exhibition at Sawidji Gallery. This work is a multi-disciplinary collaboration that brings together installations, costume design, photography and painting into the narrative of our theme. Our collaboration is primarily a conceptual portrait narrative .
Themes Within Kala
In Kala and the Guardians, the guardian portraits represent the concept of time. The visual narrative illustrates, ‘Time’ as an entity, but one whose face cannot be seen. However, it is present everywhere through the transitions and symbolic elements within them. At the centre of our work is an invisible portrait of time as an entity, whilst encouraging the viewers’ point of relativity to each of the characters in the story.
The exhibition Kala and the Guardians, its narration and its themes are available online through this Exhibition Guide. The collaboration was exhibited in Sawidji Gallery in December 2022.
One Word with Many Definitions
There have been two collaborations by Sawidji that explore conceptual portrait narratives, the first ‘Red Chair and the White Room’ and the second is ‘Kala & the Guardians. It prompted many discussions on the parameters of conceptual photography. We use the word ‘concept’ across many different industries and specialties. It carries with it a different nuance. We use it in advertising, fashion or marketing but there are different parameters that define it within art.
Conceptual Photography.. a little about it
Conceptual photography comes from conceptual art, which first emerged in the 60s. When it first came about, conceptual art determined that the concept or idea behind the artwork is more important than technique or aesthetics. In photography, this communication of the concept is usually achieved by staging. Compositional elements are very deliberate and carry representational meanings that give clues or tell a story.
Conceptual Photography for Different Purposes
Photographers have been staging scenes from when the camera was first invented. However, in this context, it is not merely staging. Especially simply for visual aesthetics. The difference in conceptual art is the tendency to explore abstract ideas. Staging to deliberate elements that represent underlying meaning.
Image: An example of conceptual photography that explores internal or subconscious states. ‘Camera Obscura’ by Marja Pirilä
Conceptual photography is useful to tell a story or make social commentary. In conveying an abstract concept or communicating internal states. It is not surprising that conceptual photography is popular in advertising as well.
Image: An example of conceptual photography in advertising. Tabasco conceptual advertisement
Within conceptual photography, artists have a broad playing field to explore abstract concepts and represent them in visual forms. It is effective in portraying more subtle human emotions and internal states. Evoking feelings not usually touched by normal captures and snapshots. The weight of the conceptual photograph is that it carries with it layers of meaning. Provoking questions and discussions.
Behind Kala & the Guardians lies a Leap into the Void
One of the best and earliest examples of conceptual photograhy is ‘Leap into the Void’ by Yves Klein.
Leap into the Void by Yves Klein, 1960.
Klein published the photograph on the first page of his own publication “Dimanche – Le Journal d’un Seul Jour” (Sunday – The Newspaper for Only One Day). This was sold throughout Paris newstands on Sunday, November 27th 1960.
© Yves Klein, ADAGP, Paris. Photo credit : Harry Shunk -John Kender, ref artlead.net.
The Abstract and Conceptual
Conceptual Photography may be hard to categorise at times. However, Yves Kleins’ ‘Leap Into the Void‘ has elements that are still some of the most important in this genre today.
- Communicates abstract ideas.
- Asks questions about the meaning behind it. A conversation about its hidden meanings.
A photograph part of a bigger message
‘Leap into the Void’ carries the weight of the complexities of a mind that was Yves Klein. One of the founding members of Nouveau Realisme. An art movement that sought new ways to perceive reality. This photograph is not simply a photomontage to depict something that seems daring or improbable. It was published in a newspaper, a newspaper the artist published himself only for that one release on Sunday, November 27th 1960.
In it, alongside this photograph titled ‘Leap into the Void’ Klein made the statement that theatre could no longer be synonymous with ‘representation and spectacle’. Because, his performance was done without actors, without an audience or a stage. It was to convey the idea that ‘theatre’, in particular, his theatre of the new reality was ‘Void’. The theatre of the future for Yves Klein is essentially an empty room. The dematerialisation of art was a big part of Yves Kleins’ works. ‘Leap into the Void’ was just one of his complex performances.
The photograph of Yves Klein jumping from a building onto an empty street was not a photo montage to show a dangerous acrobatic act. It carries with it meaning about leaping into a different reality to challenge our established perceptions. The image threads together a broader message that is threaded together like parts of a jigsaw puzzle.
A Lasting Impression
I was fortunate to have seen the retrospective on the works of Yves Klein at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australi over 20 years ago. Whether you are intrigued, sceptical or dismissive of his ideas, the full immersion, energy and passion of his imagination and intellect leaves an impression. It means that even over 60 years later, his art still challenges and asks questions.
We are now very familiar with the representation of abstract ideas and themes through art. Perhaps I was inspired by our portrait and discussion of the concept of ‘Time/Kala’ to revisit, go back in time and bring to attention the works of pioneering artists and thinkers like Yves Klein. They keep teaching us something and their energy and creative boldness is an ageless mentors.
Kala & the Guardians Limited Edition Giclee Prints
Images from Sawidji Kala collaboration were selected and are available in limited editions of 20. They are archival giclee prints signed by the artists. The story of Kala and the Guardians is one that we will nurture, along with all the wonderful memories it has given us.
The Guardian Portraits by Dewi Dian Reich and ManButur Suantara are available in limited editions through Sawidji Gallery. You may also enjoy our other works in our Gallery, Art and Conceptual.