Ben Cauchi’s indecisive moment

Ben Cauchi’s indecisive moment.

Upstairs at the City Gallery is a exhibition full of mysterious black and white photographs.

At first glance they appear to be historic artefacts, closer examination reveals them to be the intriguing work of Ben Cauchi.

He creates the artwork using a very old-fashioned and traditional model of photography.

The images processes within the camera, and it’s the negative itself which appears as the final product. The obvious restrictions on control and reproducibility puts this work in striking contrast to our current snap-happy digital realm.

The ability to use a photograph as a tool of deceit recurs as a theme in Cauchi’s work. Fitting to his medium, he references the Victorian era craze of spiritualism and its associated frauds.

I love the work where a hand hovers above a levitating book, with the manipulative strings allowing it to dangle are clear to see.

Cauchi (pronounced COW-key, if I remember rightly) is currently based in Berlin on an artist’s residency, but I had the good fortune of being at the opening weekend’s Artist Talk which he attended.

The event was hosted by curator Aaron Lister, a passionate advocate of Cauchi’s work. He provided an eloquent balance to the artist himself. Hands stuffed deep in his pockets, Cauchi seemed most comfortable when leant up against the wall, as if buffering himself from the forum’s questions.

Awkward as it is to watch a shy-natured person struggle with being under the spotlight, it was enlightening to hear him speak about his process and creations.

When asked to describe his work, Cauchi uses a negative as a definition. He mentions the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who aspired to capture the ‘decisive moment’ in his photographs and thus escorted in the 20th century movement of photojournalism.

Cauchi says his work is not about this at all, almost the opposite – evoking a sense of what may have happened just before and after this frame had its moment.

Alongside this exhibition, which runs until mid-February 2013, the City Gallery has a poetry competition for writing inspired by this collection of haunting images.

I suggest that one day this summer that we’re not bathing in sunlight, you cut across Civic Square and get inspired.

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