Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens
Laura Letinsky's new series of photographs, titled Somewhere, Somewhere, depicts vacant homes shortly after their occupants have moved out. Stripped of commodities, these unoccupied spaces show the detritus of what is left behind—grimy finger prints, ghosted paint where pictures once hung, obvious electrical outlets, cables, scattered remnants of tissue, dust bunnies, streaky windows—all of which, assisted by her eye and lens, are shown to be unassailably beautiful. This quotidian blandness, these informal spaces, are Letinsky's subjects.
The artist subtly turns us into forensic experts as we look for clues in an open-ended process. We find ourselves imagining what kind of family lived in these spaces and what took place in these rooms—the fears and the desires, the promises and the possibilities, the sounds and the silences. She proposes other questions too: what is this space? How do we experience the structures that surround us? What about the places where we live? What constitutes a feeling of place anyway? Does it derive from the presence of objects, of experience, or both? Her mute images are in no way merely empty gestures. We become deeply engaged.
Letinsky recognizes that a home is emotionally charged and that it takes on a special significance in our lives with its scale, shape, light and colour. While all her images are un-peopled, every mark, every soiled spot and remnant of human presence becomes significant, and she invites us to reconstruct actions that once took place. Each photograph of the vacant homes displays the imprint and the stuff of daily living. As our gaze follows along the barren corridors in the images, we find ourselves in that intimate place where imagination and memory mingle. We provide our own sights, smells, explanations and commentary
At Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens (once a former home) Letinsky complicates and confuses the reading of the empty house imagery to create a resonance that would not be possible in a typical modernist gallery space. She wanted to see what happens to her photographs when the viewers transfer their attention beyond the edges of the photographs' frames—onto the bare white walls they hang on—to the home/gallery's wood floors, to baseboards, to door frames, to heating vents, to light switches, to the edges of the fireplace—to the light outside. As it happens, both the photographs and the home/gallery become containers of information and the viewer becomes the subject of the work. Both art and site work together to direct the viewer to the activity of looking, to a heightened awareness of space in the most physical and personal sense. The viewing experience shifts into something very subjective that presents a direct relationship with the site itself. Everything points to the activity of looking as photographs and supporting walls become conflated. Obviously, Letinsky's empty rooms were photographed in other places, yet there is a heightened sense of one's peripheral vision and the site of engagement. The work, in a sense, becomes architectural and Letinsky, as builder, lays claim to just the right vantage points, angles and light conditions.
She is acutely aware of light, its behavior, luminosity, prismatic and shimmering effects. Like the Dutch and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century, Letinsky's treatment of light and the subjects of daily life continues a long tradition. She shares with the masters a preoccupation with geometric order and simple compositions, in which the view is usually brought in closer, and light becomes the dominant aesthetic concern.
Letinsky's work accentuates tensions and contradictions and the possibilities of playing with and pushing open the thresholds of meaning. The 'blank slate' homes can be read with a real estate broker's critical eye, generating a series of speculations and possibilities for potential owners, or, with the sadness or nostalgia of those who once claimed and lived in such spaces. They become touchstones of our experience and vessels for our memory. She boldly directs meaning and yet remains surprisingly open to it. One could say that Letinsky's photographs are empty and full at the same time. They are degree zero and sublime space.