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Bruce Charlesworth (* 1950)
Polaroid SX-70, hand coloured, 10,8 x 8,8 cm
Photographer’s stamp, dated and former Polaroid Coll. No. “79:1467:03” on the reverse
© Bruce Charlesworth

Bruce Charlesworth, who rose to fame through his multimedia installations and staged photography in the 1980s, has shaped the term “narrative environments” for his video works. By strategic positioning of actors in an artificially constructed space and partly by audio accompaniment, he traces the creation of an associative narration. He withholds a definite reading from the viewer and discloses a subjective room for interpretation between reality and fiction. “Untitled” from 1979 is an example of the artist’s early works that are readable as a precursor to his postmodern “staged photography”.

Many photographers of the 1970s and 1980s thought of the SX-70 Polaroid as a source of inspiration and creative destruction, as it offered a perfect surface for multiple manipulations. Just as for Charlesworth, who in his early days worked increasingly with the classic small format Polaroid. He coloured the positive with acrylic and used the painterly elements for a construction of surreal pictorial space.

A glass of milk, a hand coming from the right, in a row above three identical photographs of a little girl in a white dress. In the background vertical stripes alternating in colour, like a curtain, on which the three portraits are mounted; below, the horizontal colour field in monochromatic green serves as a stage for the glass in the center, interrupted by a brown stripe on the right that underlines the movement of the arm. By the retraction of three-dimensionality and the monochrome painterly elements, the objects are accentuated and presented like in front of a scenery. A kind of surreal theatre arises, in which the seemingly unrelated, floating objects appear as headliners, banned from dimensionality.

Charlesworth plays with indications regarding the content, which opens up a field of topics around childhood, restraint and proscription, but eludes a definite interpretation. This very absence of a guidance for decoding stimulates the viewer to an associative and individual completion of the void.

Johanna Pröll, © WestLicht