Current Hospital Club artist in residence, Marisa Culatto, pushes the boundaries of photography. Constraints, domesticity and daily rituals are at the centre of her practice. She addresses ambiguity and the notion of reality as a construct; her work is not so much a portrait of reality but an impression of it. Her images are familiar objects depicted in a new and emotive context. Club Art Curator, Ali Hillman, interviews Marisa about her work, art form and inspiration.
What is about photography that feels expressive to you?
I have an uneasy relationship with the term “photography”. Being described as a photographer makes me somewhat uncomfortable, which might seem strange as I work with a camera and the printed image. Nevertheless, to me, photography is just the vehicle, and the camera just another element in my creative proceedings. What I find expressive is the whole process - which is different in each body of work, from the conception to the take, to the editing and finally the production. And, as in the case of Flora and Loss included in this show, sometimes the process includes the “making” of the subject to be photographed.
Have you worked in other mediums?
The answer is yes and no. I have experimented with a lot of materials and methodologies besides photography, but mostly before I started to exhibit. I have only exhibited works which might be called “lens based”, in that they are made with a camera, but, as described before, I might have worked with materials to make what’s in the image. And, even when I take images directly from the world, the intention might again not always be “photographic” in the purest sense. Most of the works exhibited at The Hospital Club fall into this description. In fact all of them. For instance, one of the series included in this show is Loss, and here my intention has a lot more to do with drawing. To me Loss are photographic hair drawings.
Beauty seems to be a constant reference in your work. The flora pieces appear beautiful but in an unsettling context, cut flowers don't last "even when frozen" and the mysterious Ophelia works contain a very unsettling beauty. What is your inspiration in both these works and what compels you to arrange these natural materials in this way?
Beauty is interesting to me mostly from a conceptual point of view. I am delighted you use the word “unsettling” to describe both bodies of work as they do come from an unsettled frame of mind on my part. Ophelia is an encounter. I was a on a beach in UK. When the tide ebbed, I found pools formed in the sand, hundreds of them, each one containing a tiny composition of floating seaweed. It reminded me of the floating vegetation in the Pre-Raphaelite painting Ophelia, from which the series takes its name. That’s the thing about that painting that has always fascinated me, and what, in my view, gives the work a strong feeling of fleetingness: here today, gone tomorrow...
I’m also very interested in repetition. And here I hit upon a whole series, placed in front of me purely by nature. Flora are my take on the classic genre of the still life: they are arrangements of vegetation that I put together and froze before photographing them. Its conceptual intention addresses beauty, the loss of it, and the vain attempt to hold onto it. It is a reflection on how existence is transient, matter decays, and bodies perish. In the end this speaks also about the very act of photography: to freeze the moment.
Marisa Culatto's work, presented by Molina Contemporary, will be exhibited at The Hospital Club until Saturday 1st April.
RSVP to the closing event here.