The “Document” series are paintings based on historic photographs of various groups of people. These photos were originally intended to document particular groups, rather than to function as “art” per se. I’m interested in re-presenting these images through painting, which serves another purpose, namely to reflect on various human and historic themes relating to the groups of people depicted.
In a way, the photos can be likened to fossils, preserving detailed and accurate traces of people from the past by way of a chemical process. The paintings, on the other hand, are more like handmade reconstructions based on the fossils. That is, the photo is a document based on a fact, and the painting is a fiction based on the document.
This fiction is useful in interpreting the originals from a contemporary perspective. It allows us to examine the past, and explore how our reading of the past is a reconstruction based on our current understanding. For example, making large-scale colour paintings after small black and white photos brings the images to life in a way which helps carry them into the present. However, the true colours of the time are only accessible through artifacts and paintings from the period, so the colour in the paintings is necessarily an imagined reconstruction.
Rather than taking a random sampling of photos from the past, I’ve selected a particular set of images which highlight a variety of interesting issues or themes. Exhibiting the images together in a new context allows for various kinds of comparisons, and shows that there are ideas and meanings present in these images that were not intended by the original photographers. This selection provides an interpretation of the past that examines some issues which have a through-line into the present and still affect our culture today.
We see the past in a different way than the people who experienced it, and we can only reconstruct that past based on the documentation left to us. This reconstruction is necessarily a kind of fiction, but it can help us find meaning in the documents, showing the effect of history on the current human condition, and on how the present will have an effect on the future.