Eric Klemm: Close Shavings by Gary Michael Dault
Any first encounter with Eric Klemm’s demonically lush and almost endlessly explorable large-scale photographs of various kinds of shavings is likely to seem both astonishing and a matter of almost immoderate wit.
Their wit is generated from our seeing straightaway that the photographs, as pure construct, are indeed of shavings and it seems immediately absurd that any material so abject should be so easily transformable into arrangements (many of them floral in feeling) that are so opulent, so laden with a sense of decorative history, so embarrassingly authoritative in their painterly forcefulness.
And astonishing, because of the generative power with which they all seem equally imbued: a formal, imagistic power which compels us to see in them (so elastic are they in their visual complacency) everything from nosegays of flowers (the shavings often form persuasive roses and pansies), to wreaths, to spheres and discs of “blossom”, to doormats of the stuff—fields of texture, planes of variegated colour as vast and intricate as meadows.
Like whorls and patches of pigment itself, Klemm’s conceptually honed shavings, whether accumulated into congested planes or gently spread out like delicate specimens on a microscope slide, clamour for their own formal integrity as well as that which the artist has suggested for them. In essence, the shavings-works constitute one long and continuing paradox: they are blatant in their beauty and, at the same time, ironic about it to the point of coyness; they are as foolishly over-the-top as a bedroomy, talcum-powdered greeting card, and yet, like a greeting-card somebody really believes in, are touchingly guileless and innocent; they seem “natural” but, of course, they are shamelessly manipulated; they exist within a flatness as flat any photographic surface can provide, and yet the little spikes and spirals, curls and shards of which Klemm’s accumulations of shavings are made up constitute an absorbing pictorial tapestry of faux cavities and spurious volumes (one of the keys to their being read as photographed paintings).
In the end, Eric Klemm’s diabolical shavings are dangerously “glamorous” to the point of being saccharine, and satisfyingly cynical to the point of being aloof. In the end, they both withdraw from the viewer and, at the same time, stridently insist on their ingenuous loveliness.
Toronto, March 3, 2007.