In Swann’s Way, the inexhaustible Marcel Proust writes, “When from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still alone, more fragile, more unsubstantial, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time . . . like souls amid the ruins waiting and hoping for their moment, souls in whose tiny, almost impalpable drop of essence beats unfalteringly the vast structure of recollection.”
I sense something of Proust’s obsessions in the photography of Marc Sirinsky. “As an artist,” Sirinsky writes, “I’ve always felt drawn to the essence of something. A scene, an object, a place of note – the idea of stripping something down to its most basic form allows the picture plane to work on a very emotional level.”
Sirinsky’s series Connatural muses on form at the cusp of formation. Colors draw close enough to commune with one another. But, in the end, each saturated dot protects its own sovereignty, its own unique disposition. From that kind of literal re-collection, only impressions are possible. Hence the hazy serenity of Georges Seurat and Claude Monet. In photography, that tradition filters through the brothers Lumière, whose autochromes anticipate the impressionistic spectra in Sirinsky’s work.
Captured in each of Sirinsky’s photographs is the pollen-like residue of a day, connatural with the mind’s eye, which is only to say, connatural with what our real eyes are always trying to see.
Marc Sirinsky on His Series, “Connatural”
Connatural. Belonging naturally. Innate. Connected by nature. As an artist, I’ve always felt drawn to the essence of something. A scene, an object, a place of note – the idea of stripping something down to its most basic form allows the picture plane to work on a very emotional level. As I’ve matured as an artist, I’ve found subtlety to be a wonderful vehicle to convey complexity. The problem-solving part of my being also finds immense satisfaction in this . . . after all, isn’t art really problem-solving through self-expression?
A little over a decade ago, I knew what I wanted. For me, this doesn’t always happen – more often, it’s an “I’ll know it when I see it” type of thing as I layer one processes on top of another. But here, I had a relatively clear picture in my mind’s eye. The problem was that in order to accomplish it, I knew I needed to tear everything down, brick by brick, and start over. It was poetic in its own way . . . deconstructed methodologies beget quintessence.
I swapped my Nikon SLR for the 1930’s Bakelite camera I bought in some random antique store when I was in art school. I remember it was on a really high shelf and someone needed to bring over a ladder to get it down for me. It took 127 film initially, but since that had all but disappeared, I figured out how to run 35 mm through it. I had only used it once before and the images turned out terrible.
I was then off to the art store – like somehow the rest of the process would reveal itself to me as I aimlessly wandered the aisles. I walked out with several things, among them a bottle of airbrush cleaner and a few sheets of masa rice paper.
After much trial and error, I finally had some film that wasn’t half bad, so I picked the best of the group and had them scanned using a high-res 16-pass flatbed. On a whim, I converted one of my b/w files to a duotone . . . hoping that each building block of those two colors I chose would show themselves in the final print. I printed out the image on an old inkjet printer and then soaked a rag with the airbrush cleaner I had bought. As I began the arduous process of transferring to the masa rice paper, I held my breath, hoping that the result would be something worthy of my time. So many prints discarded, so many techniques abandoned…and I didn’t have the energy to confront that again. Not that day. I was exhausted. But, when the print was complete, I looked at it, a smile ran across my face, and Connatural was born. Other surfaces such as metallic paper are sometimes incorporated and occasionally, the original image is captured digitally. But the overall process has largely remained the same since that very day. Within its confines, stones still remain unturned and room for happy accidents remains.
I’ve often reflected on this intricate melding of film, digital and printmaking and the irony of a complex, multi-layered process being required to bring that desired “essence” into being. It’s physically and emotionally demanding in a way that may not be immediately apparent and sometimes I need a break from it. But, the best solutions to problems are often complicated . . . in both art and the life that visual expression reflects back at us.