Her work takes a new direction in this latest series titled: Acido Dorado. Set against the backdrop of the Californian desert, and photographed at the golden modernist structure Acido Dorado in Joshua Tree National Park, Kuhn’s photographs playfully combine a number of visual strategies. Patterning, translucency and reflectivity are mixed with the casual closeness between photographer and her subject, Kuhn’s friend and collaborator Jacintha. Kuhn pushes the effect by introducing metallic foil as an additional surface, in some cases producing purely abstract results.
The human figure emerges like a surrealist mirage, fragmented and indistinct, only to be submerged in shadows or over exposed. The building’s facade is glass and mirrors; it serves as an optical extension to the artist’s camera and lens. Light is split into refracting colours, desert vegetation grows sideways, inside is outside and outside in.
The exhibition marks Kuhn’s increasing focus on photographic techniques that appear to dissolve the figure into its environment, whilst continuing her ongoing re-interpretation of the art-historical genre of the nude. This time she investigates further, by bringing together the figure, abstractions and landscape into one.
Ahead of the opening we spoke to Kuhn’s to find out more about her work.
When did you first become interested in photography?
MK: I first got interested in photography when I was 12. My parents gave me a small Kodak camera for my birthday, and the first images I ever took were of my close friends during my bday party. Much has changed since then, but I am still intrigued with the idea of collaborating with people I know well. There is a immediate sense of trust, which is the base of my work.
How has your upbringing impacted your work?
MK: As a family, we were moving around quite a bit, mostly in Europe, Brazil and the US. On weekends, we would often visit a museum, to understand the culture through the art. Then as a teenager, I would often take pictures of people who meant a lot to me, and who I did not know for sure if I would see soon again. Photography allowed me to keep a memento of that friendship.
What is it that attracts you to nudes?
MK: I see the body as a residence to our emotions, our soul, our inner selves. Gauguin has a wonderful painting titled “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” from 1897. I think it summorizes a question we all have, but one that i decided to use as basis to my source of inspiration. I photograph the human in us, without shame, without regret, free and timeless.
What is it that inspires you to shoot a particular model?
MK: For this series, I had the privilege of photographing Jacintha again, someone I have been working with for about 10 years.
It is hard to define what inspired me, other than a certain chemistry we share.
What is your process and experience in planning and coming up with a new series? Where do you start?
MK: I start my creative process by imagining colors. I don’t know why, but coloration comes to me first. From there I tie in emotion, then location and last the people. I might be working 6 months into a project before I find the right person to photograph. This preliminary phase gives me time to submerge, to really feel and bring out what I am trying to express. Specifically in this new series, I was inspired by the golden desert light. I was also intrigued by its reflections in glass, mirror, both materials derived from sand. From that basic element, my friend Jacintha and I played with how light defines the figure, landscape and architectural space, pushing the work further into abstraction.
Abstractions and landscape play a big role in Acido Dorado – what has influenced this new direction?
MK: In this new series, I was primarily concerned with light and space. I have been living in Los Angeles for 10 years, and have become familiar with the works by Ed Ruscha, Robert Graham and James Turrell. It is quite possible that their work has left an impression. But honestly, I have been mostly influenced by observing the vast desert landscape and the quality of light, specific to Southern California.
An Interview with Mona Kuhn ahead of her London Show at Flowers Gallery