2007-2008 2006-2007 2005-2006 2004-2005 2003-2004 2002-2003 2001-2002 2000-2001 1999-2000 1998-1999 1997-1998
1996-1997 1995-1996 1994-1995 1993-1994 1992-1993 1991-1992 1990-1991 1989-1990 1988-1989 1987-1988 1986-1987
< Thumbnails < Last | Next >


Michael Snow
Manifestation, 1999
Plastic lamination, colour ink-jet photograph, spray paint, black paper, mirror
206.6 x 114.4 cm
Purchased 2001
© Michael Snow

Michael Snow has maintained a steady interest in photography since the 1960s. His photographs are often philosophical in nature: they address the process of picture making and the manner in which the camera frames and orders reality. Snow makes the medium of photography the subject matter of his work, investigating how the photograph is, at one and the same time, both real and illusory, an object and a representation of objects. In particular, the capacity of photography to create a two-dimensional interpretation of three-dimensional space has been an ongoing source of fascination for Snow. The camera "flattens" reality, a fact that is often ignored as we tend to look at the photograph only for what is represented.

For example, a 1988 work, In Medias Res, depicts the escape of a parrot from its cage. The furniture, people, and parrot, all seen from above, appear as planar objects against the backdrop of an oriental rug. The size of the photograph is identical to the size of the actual rug, and the print is exhibited on the floor. Through such a placement, the photograph functions as an object, almost as a sculpture, in real time and space. Although it depicts an actual scene, it is also an abstract representation. In this and other related works, Snow emphasizes that photographs require interpretation; viewers must imaginatively reconstruct the spatial and temporal components of the event depicted in order to understand what is going on.

The camera's ability to both distort and accurately record aspects of the real is an important component of Manifestation (Autourisation of 8 faces). Snow has described the piece as a 1999 remake of his work Authorization (1969), which is in the National Gallery's collection. In both works, mirrors figure prominently - they function as the physical support and they are integral to the meaning of the works. In Authorization, Snow photographs himself in a mirror, and places the resulting image on a mirror, only to repeat the process another four times. The act of photographing, therefore, is captured in both the mirror and the photographs, the latter retaining evidence of their own making.

In Manifestation (Autourisation of 8 faces), the artist is again present, now appearing as a multiple blurred figure. As in Authorization, the image depicts the act of the artist creating the piece. The trace of the subject's movement in the single exposure conveys the passage of time. Snow has related the movement or blurring in the image to brushwork - the "painterly gesture within the medium of the camera." Present time contrasts with celestial or cosmic time, alluded to in the photograph of the galaxies appearing behind the artist. The dots of stars are echoed in the paint splatters in the foreground. This virtual depiction of paint is, in turn, contrasted with the patch of real red paint that has been sprayed onto the clear plastic laminate covering the photograph. The viewer too is present, reflected in the section of mirror at the bottom. The viewer, in effect, "completes" the piece, positioning the work in the real time and space of the art gallery.

As is often the case in Snow's work, the many twists and turns in Manifestation (Autourisation of 8 faces) form a puzzle to be contemplated. Perhaps most important, Manifestation is a rich and appealing life-size self-portrait that encapsulates Snow's continuing ruminations on the nature of photography.