Ohad Matalon | North–True. South–Bright.

 

Photographer Ohad Matalon's series of photographs titled North–True. South–Bright creates an autonomous world of photography, hallucinatory and insinuating, playful and fragile, processing external imagery to tell a story of creation and being, while simultaneously of emptiness and nothingness. Like Paul Celan, who sought to locate the poetic word 'North' of truth and 'South' of brightness, Matalon tries to shift his images slightly beyond the visible and to some extent to the sub-concrete. All this from a perspective which owes nothing to history or culture and uses them freely, in order to self reflect, upon this very personal viewpoint, alongside classical echoes which appear in his work partial and broken.

Matalon's quest formulates and grows from an inventory of images accumulated on his photography trips around the world, especially in Germany, Austria, Taiwan, Jordan and Israel. This inventory includes architectural images, surfaces of concrete walls, empty and abandoned spaces, constructions with a sculptural nature, details of foliage, fragments of a poster, part of a door or the facade of a ruined building. His camera lingers on what lives beyond the artifact's own obvious functionality, and challenges reality's membrane captured by the camera's lens in performative / playful / sculptural / pictorial interventions. Matalon juggles with the borders of reality and art, mixing the two together: He puts glass plates on top of an undergrowth and photographs it through them, he adds text or a written word, he reproduces, deletes, or builds a spiral of platters at an angle of 8.18 degrees, for the mere purpose of capturing the sculptural tower which stands in space like a strange spacecraft or a variation on Tatlin.

The movement between what might be called 'objective reality', which is in the world, and conscious reality which emerges through assiduous work methods that occur entirely after the act of taking a picture, Matalon completed by fusing the two elements of optical photography – the negative and the positive - as if they were two phases of existence. The essence created - in black and white, after submitting to the negative part - is subject to numerous crossings and intermediate stations, depending on the altering relationship from one to the other. The negative, which glows through the positive, creates an internal radiation of the images, distancing them from the point of departure at which the photograph was taken. Matalon is interested in architecture, whose functionality has faded for various reasons, or never even showed up, leaving it in a naked and exposed formalist position, which cannot ask for anything. This empty and deserted architecture, condemned to being the object of the aesthetic gaze. However it still carries a distant echo of past testimony. The critical stature of these structures traces the lunar line between metaphysics and aesthetics, between arbitrary and abstract geometric gestures and historical and political baggage.

Factually, this series of structures, glowing in an unidentified space, are stained with history and marked with politics - whether it's a German bunker from World War II, an abandoned residential building previously belonging to Syrian officers, or King Hussein's abandoned palace - but alongside these,  different photos which deceive the gaze, and undermine the ability to sort and categorize, push themselves into the visual spectrum – blurring the distinction between the suspicious and the innocent, the civilian and the military, and the depressive and the aesthetic. In fact, Matalon is entirely uninterested in the traditional political-historical narrative, and he certainly isn’t interested in political photography in the conventional sense, which submits a claim against the establishment or power. Matalon deals with the very possibility of peering through the political screen, as well as the historical reality, which does not hold an ethical dialogue, unless the moral is the realization of the desire to weave an enigmatic and loaded fabric of signs of existence.

In line with this method of thinking, Matalon chose to forgo the object's dimension in photography, as an object with thickness and weight, ready for purchase, and instead offers 10 photographs projected in the gallery's space. These digital membranes, which owe their soul to the electric rays of light, just before they return to darkness, allude to the existential space which Matalon deals with: A pause in the narrow ontological crack between the realistic and the surreal, between the delicate and the existent, while the concrete image seeps into abstract formalism, or, alternatively, is gently absorbed into a radiant metaphysical essence. This essence itself is not stable and unique, and over the course of the exhibition it too will change, and these and other images, seeped with this spirit, will shift into later or earlier processing conditions. Matalon creates a liquidity of the gaze and the senses, and challenges his audience to a world view in which the Heideggerian "being," injected into Matalon's visual world by the appearance of the term DASEIN, which he wrote on the wall of the German bunker, becomes part of an advertisement, and casts suspicion even on itself.

 

Tali Tamir