“What I like to think is I’m somehow presenting aspects of nature that are contemplative and they display the fragility of it and the toughness at the same time.”
This artist is all about the atmosphere and its many states of inversion. In Edward Batcheller’s works, the nuance and the metaphor render a composition as much as the glass, light and chemicals do. It’s all about turning things upside down.
Even his process is an inversion: He’s using photography to make sculpture. The actual thing you see is a material, not a representation. In a photograph, a picture of a flower is artificial. But in one of Batcheller’s plates it’s the emulsion breaking apart to make the shape of a flower. It may look like a flower, but what you’re really looking at is the absence of something and the pure light that’s left behind. It’s this topsy-turvydom that makes his work a sort of proto-photography.
“A lot of my images are photograms, taken without a camera. I put the glass plate in the water and flash the light on it and the shadows of the water waves make that image.”
Another inversion: Does the plate of glass define the scene or is it suggesting a world beyond its confines? Batcheller stalks us with questions like these, drawing from the Russian constructivists and from futurism to articulate the ideas in his work.
Compression and expansion are another two elements he uses. Gravity is his copilot; he works with it but he also defies it. This push-pull happens when he’s stacking plates, building them upwards from a foundation, as well as when he’s creating systems of wires and brackets to hang them like drapes.
Batcheller likes the layers, assembly and textures. And he weaves all of these together to get viewers to think about the natural world in a way that’s similar to looking through a microscope. For him, the art is important because it raises questions and through the process it resolves them, like science. “You can’t make art without the process. And my focus is my process. And then, at some point the result will be what I consider to be a piece.”
Edward Batcheller’s works can be seen at Chase Edwards Gallery, Bridgehampton, and in the Long Island Biennial at The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, Aug 16-Nov 30. edwardbatcheller.com
photo by matt furman