Uta Barth

Uta Barth

My tutor recommended this photographer when thinking about A4 and A5 in trying to illustrate a dream and the unseen. I was impressed – first some images some research and then my views.

UB: I started out my career by making groupings of photographs that were all different ways to reference the act of “seeing,” combined with highly optical or op-art-like paintings. The abstract black and white painted patterns vibrate and created an illusion of seeing color much like a Bridget Riley painting will. The later work poses phenomenological questions in different ways, by making the point of focus unclear and referencing optical afterimages, etc. Phenomenology is a constant player in my work no more or less now than in the past. People often ask me if I make certain moves to confuse the viewer. I don’t think confusion is my intention, but I do make moves to cause you to have to reexamine your expectation of what a photograph can be by making images that do not conform to our existing vocabulary of the medium. I think that any medium is at its most interesting when it pushes the envelope of expectation, when it works “against the grain” of what we anticipate and forces us to truly experience instead of simply records. http://utabarth.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2012-george-stoltz-interview-2012-galeria-elvira-gonzalez-website.pdf


I always start lectures by telling the audience that, while I have been a “photographer” for all of my career, the artists who have influenced me when I was young and still do today are not found in the history of photography. I am influenced by Robert Irwin, by the Light and Space movement, by On Karawa, Agnes Martin, by Turner’s late sky paintings, by Andy Warhol’s screen tests, by Charlie Ray’s cubes and tables, by much of the work and thinking of Minimalism, and by artists like John Cage, who understood that in order to talk about silence you have to bracket it by sound, and by Brian Eno’s interest in ambient sound. All of these artists deal with perception and ask us to re-examine what we take for granted and often overlook.

I am interested in nuances, in subtleties, in
the ephemeral, in everyday information and
overlooked views. I want to make images
that are purely of light, images of negative
space, of the volumes of space instead of
the walls that contain it, images that
capture and slow down time, slow down our
process of engaging with art as well as
change how we interact with what we do
and see every day. Most of the work that is
important to me would fall under sculpture
or installation, but I chose the camera
instead. I chose the camera because early
on it taught me to see and I stuck with the camera because its lens is the closest thing we have to the human eye. It allowed me to examine vision and visual perception.

So there is little direct resemblance between the images Bob Irwin makes and my photographs but we think about similar ideas. His curiosity and investigation made a huge impression on me when I was a student (though then, at the height of postmodernism it was almost taboo for me to be interested in this work) and I have followed his work closely ever since. He, more than any of the other artists from the Light and Space movement, truly pushed the boundaries of what could be thought about and changed what could be considered as art. I think that ultimately each medium should embrace and expand what its inherent characteristics are, so I am drawn to visual art that truly is about the visual and widens our understanding of what visual experience can be. I have deeply felt political convictions but I don’t think art is the most expedient vehicle to exercise these, so I choose to address them within the political arena instead.

The title of Robert Irwin’s biography is Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees. It is a line from a Zen text. Nothing better describes what I continue to aspire to. I think of the three projects shown here as chapters or variations of one idea; in all three I become an active participant by literally drawing with light, while also rendering the passage of time.http://utabarth.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2012-george-stoltz-interview-2012-galeria-elvira-gonzalez-website.pdf

I like these because they are ambiguous and allows lots of interpretation of what is there. I have been reading John Berger’s writings on ‘Appearance’ where he talks about the needs for ambiguity as a vehicle for allowing people to invest their own meanings on images (Berger, 1982). I think that this is correct and a partial image of light or shadow, as in some of the images above, can convey what lies in the spaces in between.

Like an number of artists she lies in the group of photographers that have strong theoretical aspect to her work and are willing and able to articulate that. An interview in 2102



Berger, J. (1982). Appearances. Another Way of Telling. John Berger and jean Mohr. New York, Pantheon Books http://timothyquigley.net/vcs/berger-appearances_illus.pdf.

Ferrier, S. (2016). “Ambiguity of meaning within the photographic image.” Retrieved December 7th, 2016, from http://www.sachaferrier.com/blog/2016/1/10/ambiguity-of-meaning-within-the-photographic-image.

Stolz, G. (2012). “Uta Barth interviewed by George Stolz. May 2012.”. Retrieved December 7th, 2016, from http://utabarth.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/2012-george-stoltz-interview-2012-galeria-elvira-gonzalez-website.pdf.