INSPIRED by October’s York Unlocked event, York Open Studios regular Adele Karmazyn is opening doors to Hidden Spaces in her new exhibition.
Embracing the opportunity to visit the city’s historic hidden places, she took photographs on the way, and now those photos form the backdrop for her new body of digital photomontages on show in the City Screen Picturehouse café, in Coney Street, York, until January 14 2023.
Each piece in Hidden Spaces evolves into an individual story when Adele brings in her 19th century characters, taken from old cabinet photographs, and combines these with other photographs of objects, landscapes and creatures.
By merging multiple layers and concentrating on light and depth, she creates “realistic, believable scenarios, which at the same time could never possibly be”.
Here CharlesHutchPress asks questions to send Adele into her flights of fantasy…or maybe ghost stories of lives that could have been.
What drew you to the City Screen café as a location for an exhibition? Is this the first time that you have exhibited there?
“I love the City Screen building with the river backdrop. I’ve exhibited once before upstairs but never in the café. It’s a wonderful spot for my work, being full of stories and imagination, just like the films on show there.”
Which hidden places in York did you visit during the York Unlocked weekend in October?
“York Unlocked was a great opportunity for me to take lots of photographs to use in my work. I ran around the city like a headless chicken! I was particularly impressed with the Masonic Hall and the York Guildhall, which I‘d never been to before. I’m sure these spaces will feature not only in this collection but again in future collections.”
How did the buildings spark your imagination for Hidden Spaces?
“I was already planning to create a collection centred around the old (Grays Court) and present Treasurer’s House, which I’d visited and photographed already. So when I heard about this event, I decided ‘Hidden Spaces’ could be any historic building in York.”
How did you settle on that title?
“Well, when I choose a title, I spend a moment looking at the images as they are ‘in progress’. They all look like secretive places, hidden away from the crowds. This is the feeling I got also when these doors opened, and I got to see behind these (often) closed doors.”
Why do creatures as well as humans feature so prominently in your work?
“I think there’s a creature of some sort in every image, be it a bird, a butterfly or a beetle. I feel it brings more life to the image and creates a connection between the character and nature. I also love it when you don’t always see everything on first glance, and hiding some creature makes the images more interesting and surprising.”
How long does it take to create each multi-layered work?
“Some pieces flow really nicely and I can complete it in a few weeks, but some can have a rough ride, where I get stuck and nothing makes sense or I don’t have the right character.
“I may have ‘something’ but there’s a missing piece and these can sit in my folders for months. My images are a tornado of imagination and chance. It’s a really fun and also sometimes frustrating process, but when that magic happens and the ideas and images come together, it’s really exciting and why I love working this way.”
Further explore your assertion that each piece features a “realistic, believable scenario, which at the same time could never possibly be”…
“Digital collage artists can create so many scenarios, from totally surreal and roughly pieced-together images to the subtle changes of a realistic photograph.”
“What I’m trying to achieve is an image that looks almost painted, as opposed to ‘photographic’, and by mixing water where there would never be, or a cloud in a room, or wild animals inside a Victorian skirt, so your eyes see this is actually happening in the image but the brain knows this could not actually happen. I believe it’s called ‘Magic Realism’.”
Are they images of ghosts coming alive or of lives that could have been?
“I like to think of it as giving them another life, full of adventure and stories untold. Of course there is a ghost-like quality to the images but nothing too dark.”
Is it lazy to label them as “surrealist”?
“A couple of my pieces I would say are bordering on surreal, but mostly they are dreamlike images, theatrical, imaginative and curious.”
Are there hidden meanings to these Hidden Spaces?
“If the viewer finds a meaning, then that is what it is. I like to leave the interpretation up to each individual. I do like to work with a theme, and some have meaning to me that may mean something entirely different to someone else.”
Who would be your influences? Magritte? Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam? Maybe even Glen Baxter?
“I do love the work of Magritte. I follow many modern-day artists who inspire me, such as Daria Pertilli, Maggie Taylor and Christian Schloe.”
There seems to be a balance between humour and something more troubling: the images are frozen in time past awaiting release in the viewer’s imagination that could take both the incumbents and the viewer anywhere. See above: Those Canada Geese in flight….how did they get in there? Where are they going? Why are they in there? Will they get out? So many possibilities! Like in Tracy Chevalier’s novel, inspired by Johannes Vermeer’s Dutch Golden Age oil painting Girl With A Pearl Earring. Discuss…
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if a whole story was written from an image. This is what I love about the process of image making. I start with nothing, then I find a character, then a space, then things get thrown in and taken out and a story evolves and changes.
“My best-selling image is ‘Survival’, a picture of a young girl sailing in an upturned umbrella with a bird and a nest on her head. Part of the success of this image I think is the girl herself.
“She speaks volumes just to look at her. She is strong-willed and she will survive! This could easily be a still from a film and the rest of the story is up to the viewer to imagine.”
What’s coming up for you in 2023?
“Next year begins with York Open Studios [April 15, 16, 22 and 23], hopefully followed by Saltaire Open Houses arts trail [May 27 to 29] (although this hasn’t been confirmed yet).
“I’m bringing in oil paintings and working on creating curiosity boxes too, as something new to accompany my digital images.
“I’ve also written a children’s book, which I’m now illustrating, so it’s all go in my Holgate garden studio. The book is called ‘The Life Of A Bee, It’s Not For Me’ and it’s a rhyming story for ages three to five, I would say. It’s all about a bee called Clive, who saves the world with the help of the swallows…I don’t want to give any more away!
“It’s very exciting as I may have a contract…once I send off the illustrations, which is my project for in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.”