Daniel von Sturmer
15th October – 17th December 2022
Anna Schwartz Gallery
Each of the works in Projections takes as its reference a sheet of graduated photographic background paper typically used in product photography and studio portraiture. Graduated paper is imprinted with a block of colour that slowly fades to white at its bottom edge, which also curls up slightly to form an infinity curve. Indeed, graduated paper is a small-scale version of the immersive cyclorama wall that tricks the eye into perceiving boundless space, where x and y axes bleed into one another, destablising our depth of field. Having previously photographed graduated paper; for this exhibition, Daniel von Sturmer has created physical replicas of these paper backdrops in aluminium, hand-forming the curve around a cylindrical tube and coating the picture surface in multiple layers of acrylic enamel paint.
Typically, in a photographic shoot, an object or subject is placed in front of graduated paper to make its details stand out against the blank monochrome background. But in Projections, we are given the background — designed to disappear into a surfaceless oblivion or to be photoshopped out later — as the visual object in question. The eye is drawn into the absorptive monochrome before it is led down the image, where the pigment slowly fades to white. Here, the curving picture plane simultaneously jumps out of pictorial space into three-dimensionality, its objecthood further underscored by the shadow it casts against the gallery wall. The object is somewhat inscrutable. It optically recedes even as it physically projects towards us. The artist has referred to this push-pull effect as ‘withholding’; they figure their knowability through recession, if not withdrawal.
By representing the bare support structures of a commercial photographic studio within the gallery, von Sturmer’s Projections could be seen to venture a form of institutional critique, but such approaches are, for von Sturmer, always determined within a set of relations including philosophical and psychological concerns. Von Sturmer’s critical approach is often additive, not solely subtractive. Truth is held out as an infinitely deferred, mutable entity. It’s figured as something we might strive towards but never fully arrive at.
Helen Hughes, 2022