Roland H. Wiegenstein Review

Abstraction, Reflection, Transformation on Alyssia Lazin's Photos

"Edgar Degas took numerous photos of his models, but this only became known much later, once photography had gone from being a funfair attraction (or a form of supporting documentation) to an art form in its own right, and by that time Degas was long since dead. By then the first photographers, from Talbot to Atget, began to feel themselves as artists; they were not, however, taken seriously as such. In the intervening time, the "fully enlightened world" has been flooded with photos that claim to replicate "reality" in all its different aspects, and we cannot get away from them. In parallel, photographers, as artists, meanwhile created their own reality. Another "real world", often light-years away from the one we know. We have to learn to "read" these photos.

Alyssia Lazin, who began her career in front of a camera, as a model, and behind one, as a graphic designer, found her own way into the confusing diversity of modern photography, in which the experience of her origins remain visible, with attention to detail from chosen extracts to play with extreme focus and a special printing processes on water color paper. She takes digital photos, but--and this is where it gets complicated--she does not change the chosen object, whatever it may be, once the shot has been taken: no corrections to format or color. Things must be as she has seen them. There is no question that she has been influenced by abstract art (one of her series is called "Abstraction")--some of her pictures would have been unimaginable without constructivism--but she has also learned from impressionism: could her sea roses in a pond have come to pass without Monet, or some of her still lives without Morandi? In one picture from the "Transformation" series, the viewer seems to discover homage to Beuys: in a neglected room stands a dust-covered piano, and an old vacuum cleaner leans against a white wall. In this series are many photos which give abandoned things new life: a barn, an old door, an attic, a beamed ceiling, everything which is represented develops its own poetry, makes traces of its own past visible (human life, human effort...). This is particularly moving in two photos Lazin took in Shanghai, in portrait drawings hanging on the walls, standing on the floor, a lost past is preserved with bitter firmness. But here, as ever, what has been seen, what has been preserved, is only there in the details. I only know one picture of hers that can be described as a “whole,” a pier jutting out into a lake or river, at the end of which a man is looking into the water (backlit and only recognizable as a dark form) and in the background an enormous arched bridge on which many small forms are milling about—all rendered in delicate grays. Otherwise objects and surroundings have taken control in a quiet, gentle form of control, nothing overpowering. It is enough to see a couple of bamboo canes, the edge of a table, the corner of a house. But be careful: everything that works toward a peaceful, purely two-dimensional rendition here is illusory. Again and again, what is visible escapes precise fixation by the observer, and becomes “unreadable” because it always implies a third dimension, and sometimes even involves a fourth: that of time. This is exactly how Lazin works, especially in the “Reflection” series: objects leave reflection behind at exactly the moment the shutter is released (the right moment), reality becomes strange when seen through glass (something like a window installed on a slant) or in a mirror coincidentally encountered, which, like still or troubled waters, shows what they reflect. Sometimes the viewer wants to turn the photos in order to get an idea of the standpoint from which they were taken: but even that doesn’t always help. Some pictures, even in their natural palette, seem like something out of a fairy tale, while others seem to come straight out of a ghost story. In both cases shades of blue are dominant. And viewers will always need to think their way into the avoided whole, to “reflect” it by completing it with their own perceptions and thoughts. In some pictures Lazin even becomes “bottomless”; everything swirls into a recorded nowhere, which was, nonetheless—before she cast her eye on it—somewhere “real”. It has been plunged into a new state of aggregation, that of art. Not a harmless state.

Alyssia Lazin has found the “cool place on the pillow” (Jean Cocteau), and this is the proof of the quality of her work."

Roland H. Wiegenstein
Art & Literary Critic