Wednesday, 27 May 2009
I remember the first time I ever went on a plane very well: I was seated at the window (of course!) aboard a Qantas plane headed to Sydney. Excited with glee, I remember being told to suck on my mint to counter the effects changing altitude pressure. I also remember the courtesy peanuts and safety instruction manual. But most of all, I remember the scenery outside. Houses scaling down to resemble toy houses not unlike the ones in my Monopoly set, wide expanses of land becoming square-ish patches of greenery not unlike my Lego boards, and finally, neighbourhoods becoming grids not unlike my collection of maps. I will never forget that sublime birds-eye-view of the city - the true reflection of gentrification and urbanisation, of the magnificent scale of mankind’s achievements - especially when viewed from afar.
Seeing Andreas Gursky’s work reminds me - every single time - of that sense of awe I experienced so many years ago:
“Born in 1955, Gursky grew up in Düsseldorf, the only child of a successful commercial photographer, learning the tricks of that trade before he had finished high school. In the late 1970s, he spent two years in nearby Essen at the Folkwangschule (Folkwang School), which Otto Steinert had established as West Germany’s leading training ground for professional photographers, especially photojournalists. At Essen, Gursky encountered photography’s documentary tradition, a sophisticated art of unembellished observation, whose earnest outlook was remote from the artificial enticements of commercial work. Finally, in the early 1980s, he studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie (State Art Academy) in Düsseldorf, which thanks to artists such as Joseph Beuys, Sigmar Polke, and Gerhard Richter had become the hotbed of Germany’s vibrant postwar avant-garde. There Gursky learned the ropes of the art world and mastered the rigorous method of Bernd and Hilla Becher, whose photographs had achieved prominence within the Conceptual and Minimal art movements.” (MoMa)
“His photographs—big, bold, rich in color and detail—constitute one of the most original achievements of the past decade and, for all the panache of his signature style, one of the most complex… [In the 90's], Gursky expanded his scope of operations from Düsseldorf and its environs to an international itinerary that has taken him to Hong Kong, Cairo, New York, Brasília, Tokyo, Stockholm, Chicago, Athens, Singapore, Paris, and Los Angeles, among other places. His early themes of Sunday leisure and local tourism gave way to enormous industrial plants, apartment buildings, hotels, office buildings, and warehouses. Gursky’s world of the 1990s is big, high-tech, fast-paced, expensive, and global. Within it, the anonymous individual is but one among many.” (MoMa)