Egon Bajt: Hint and Disclosure

Maribor Museum of National Liberation

Temporary exhibition / 02.08.2019 - 01.09.2019

Made over the last three years (2017–2019), the Hint photo series shows the author's continued interest in the interpretation of the female body through the photography medium. What was once the pioneering technique of cyanotype, is no longer used in the traditional context and its typical blue hue has been abandoned. In the new appearance of brown-toned graphic paper, the author combines its archival technological detail with the use of contemporary procedures. This is an upgrade by means of research: when working with various cameras and having images taken mostly on film, preparation of negatives and slides composes a significant part of studio work. The technological and aesthetical pleasure are thus intertwined.

In the Disclosure series, models appear as objects in the study of the formal language, with the photographer exercising his control of considerate observation of form, firm and soft contours, sampling, layering made rhythmical, lush tonal gradation, undulation and shine of locks of hair, uncovering and concealing the body by means of a drapery game. Images from the Hint series move within the contrast between decorative form and carnal softness. Be it a lying, sitting or standing figure, the approach is similar to what can be found in sculpture or painting: to capture the warm tones of skin, the softness of the transition between the illuminated and the shadowy, smooth, luminous, the sublimely light contour. Precise layering and fluidity support the eye in perceiving plasticity. Forms are integrated into the centrally constructed composition, often made more dynamic using diagonals. The brown hue of paper contributes to the feel of gravity in the composition, whereas the suggestive use of its granulation additionally supports the amplitude of texture. In a uniform manner, the intimate format presents the iconographic range of the female nude. In antiquity or renaissance, the female nude was often referred to as Venus, in order for the generic name to guide the reading of the image within classically respectful connotations. The renaissance Venus required domestic staff to assist her, at least with clothing, for the body to preserve in a way the symbolic status of love, beauty and fertility. We surely have numerous references to traditional works and works by the masters who were aware of their creations emanating erotic power in baroque ecstasy or rococo playfulness. The string of changes in the attitude to sexuality was at its most radical during modernity when the presentation of nudity was brought under realism and liberation from allegory. Contemporary interpretations of the nude, gender studies and women's studies warn of the dark side of this topic even in the contemporary context, i.e., the consummation of the image of the female body, integration in economic and social injustice. Therefore, each image belongs to its moment in history: artists have been discovering eroticism in line with the culture of their time. The next question to emerge in analysis and comparison is how the model is embedded in the surroundings. The interior is perceived as the private sphere (maybe also something artificial or controlled), and the exterior as the public space. The dialogue of the body with the nature draws partly from the period of pictorialism in Slovenia and evolves further: it is now about the female body in the nature, in a quarry, in the setting and circumstances that belong to her, based on which the interpretation can celebrate the woman's attitude to her own body. The photographer's attitude to the motif (or the model) can also be interpreted through poses, which are either passive or active, but always a consensus between both of them; the dialogue can be perceived. When the role of the model is active, the stress in on her awareness of the viewer's gaze interfering with the intimacy of the scene, whereas her gaze into the viewer exposes the directness of nudity and eroticism. A gesture of the hand (Venus Pudica) can cover and also serve as a great quote from the history of the sensual and inviting. The use of props (chair, mirror, canvas, drapery) hints at possible stories to study and interpret, and at light playfulness about the scene.

The discussion on the eternal motif of nude will continue to develop and transform alongside the evolvement of our response: the issue of gender, the issue of power, interpretation of contexts of nudity. In the meantime, the photographer deals with the technical and formal issues while having a study attitude towards the motif and the technique as such, and the viewer in front of the image is again faced with the original eros.

Ina Širca¸¸

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