NORMAN SARACHEK

CHEMIGRAMS

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NORMAN SARACHEK

CHEMIGRAMS

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Artist’s Statement

Having studied with Larry Fink and other photographers known for their images of people, my initial work in photography seemed to naturally involve using a camera for social documentation. However, about 12 years ago I began to search for a way to use the unique and beautiful qualities of photographic materials to create a body of work that would reflect more closely my personal artistic sense, especially my love of mark and space in art. Could I find a way to use the basic materials of photography – photo paper, light and chemicals – to create abstract work in the tradition of those artists whose work especially resonates with me, artists like Brice Marden, Richard Serra, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock as well as Asian masters of sumi-e ink painting and calligraphy?

After several years working with the photogram technique, using ink markings on clear acetate sheets as masks over photo paper and exposing both to light, I discovered the Chemigram process, first described by Belgian photographer Pierre Cordier in 1956. This technique involves the application of chemicals to black and white photographic paper. These chemicals affect the silver gelatin paper’s response to light. Varying the concentration, flow, and time of contact of the chemicals with the paper allows me to control the lightness, color tone, and composition of the image background. I use a resist to protect selected areas of the paper from the chemicals much as a print maker uses a resist to protect the plate in an acid bath. Unlike most working with chemigrams, the resist I use is a “soft” one, lending itself to rapid gestural creation of images - often in thirty seconds or less as opposed to thirty minutes or more when a “hard” resist or varnish is used. Silver in the paper that is protected by resist is not affected by the chemical bath and, since the lights are on while I work in the darkroom, will end up being black. These black “marks” created on the lighter background define each image and each series of images.

My work bridges the aesthetic of abstract painting and printmaking with the materials of photography. However, the unique action of light on black and white photographic paper allows me to achieve results quite different from those obtainable with painting or printmaking. Inherent in this work is risk taking - balancing control and chance in the same way an abstract painter does when making a gesture with a brush. It is my intention to energize the final image with this risk taking, along with evidence of process and strength of gesture.

With my current body of work, After Fukushima/ Memory of Nature, returns to social documentation with the use of the Chemigram process rather than a camera.