Despite the myriad forms that photographic manipulation takes within digitally produced visual culture – from celebrity touchups to hyperreal special effects – there is still something basically jolting about the simple geometry and shrewd trompe l’oeil of two unassociated elements that, suddenly, just fit. The pre-Photoshop days of John Stezaker’s collages spring to mind: his surprisingly straightforward cut-and-paste juxtapositions, and their many predecessors, such as Hannah Höch’s dadaist photomontage or even Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein’s ‘collision’ editing, remind one that less is often more, regardless of whether scissors or Ctrl + x is your method of choice.
With a similar kind of eye for formal coherence and an uncrowded, bold aesthetic, newcomer Hungarian artist Flóra Borsi showed promise in this solo show. That she titled it Pieces of My Mind suggests insularity and a preoccupation with subjective experience, yet what is most striking about Borsi’s work is how open every image is to multiple interpretative points of entry. Sure, her pieces tend thematically to jump around a bit – but at the ripe old age of twenty (at the time of the exhibition), the temptation to showcase your current bests may come out top. Stylistically harmonious, however, Borsi’s work is fortunately visually strong enough to withstand the rather confused setting that is ART350 (is it a cafe? A gallery? A hall of pictures with a grand piano in one corner?) and its consequent lack of much in the way of curatorial intervention.
Borsi attempts through her photo manipulations to both ‘visualise the physically impossible’ and to communicate ‘emotions, dreams and humour’
In her own words (in a statement on her website), Borsi attempts through her photo manipulations to both ‘visualise the physically impossible’ and to communicate ‘emotions, dreams and humour’ – a wide spectrum of intent with fair results. The Des Monstres series (2013), for instance, features strongly backlit female nudes with ethereal silken extensions flowing forth from body parts. The stylish, monochromatic aesthetic looks straight out of an haute couture photoshoot; however, there’s a palpable rhythm to the figures’ contorting forms that makes for an image more emotively expressive than fashionably poised.
Elsewhere, a wry sense of humour is indeed evident in works like Borsi’s untitled 2013 portrait of a morose greyhound in a velvet jacket, but this hangs among striking and sinister pieces like Push and See (2014), Subjective Freedom I & II (2013) and Essäché (2013), where the communication of the other vaunted aspects, emotions and dreams (and their surreal physical manifestations), seems to occupy the foreground. And at no loss: featuring Borsi herself as model, these autobiographical works are particularly memorable for their interplay in obscuring, then revealing identity. Essäché could be a traditional portrait, given its model’s over-the-shoulder look, but her face is smothered in glossy black feathers that render the uncovered eyes all the more haunting. Push and See plays with our perceptions: it seems, at first, again to feature feathers, but reveals itself as a multitude of black-clad hands encroaching upon a nearsubmerged face – a dark sister-image, if there ever was one, to the iconic Guy Bourdin photo of red-nailed hands covering a red-lipped face.
Although pushing the medium of photo manipulation towards its conceptual and aesthetic capabilities, Borsi’s vision ultimately sustains its clarity and originality thanks to her surprising ability to strike formal balance. Her photos transform the familiar just enough to challenge perception, while remaining on familiar ground by offering what appears to be a good old peek into the subconscious.
This article was first published in the Summer 2014 issue.