'EYEDENTITY': Stephane Graff presents his first solo exhibition in Asia
How have the psychoanalytic writings of Freud and Jung influenced the development of your alter egos, the scientist Professore and the ethnobotanist Albert Frique?
With Freud, in relation to my paintings, his concept of the 'uncanny' is very central to the idea. The concept of the 'uncanny', as I understand it, is that we hide certain things from others without realising it. We might also be hiding it from ourselves. It's about the unconscious things that are being pushed and submerged in our minds. A very good way to illustrate this is by painting a black box over the eyes. In regards to my alter egos Professore and Albert Frique, they are both vintage characters who are almost like mad scientists.
In your 'Black Box' series, you referenced artists like Jackson Pollock and their studio spaces. In 'Professore', you delved into scientists and their laboratories. Did you pick these spaces because they are both sites for experimentation and discovery?
Yes absolutely, and they are also very personal spaces. When I invented the 'Professore' series, my painting studio had to be transformed into a laboratory. I took out all the easels and canvases and started making contraptions and equipment, filling it with chemistry sets and blackboards so it kind of looked like a vintage laboratory. Essentially, it's the same feeling working in the space whether it's a painting studio or laboratory. Many painters work almost like scientists in the way they experiment with materials and mediums. There's a duality there for sure.
You've discovered a new technique for printing photographs called the graphite. How did this innovation come about?
I started doing experiments with graphite powder through extremely complicated printing processes that nobody would ever want to do. It takes hours and hours just to make one print. The negative has to be exposed five or six times in order to get enough density in the image. I have to develop the picture, wash it, and then repeat it five times. The negative has to be registered exactly in the same place each time so it is extremely difficult but the results are exquisite. There is almost no printing technique like it. It has just the most subtle layering of graphite dust that has the quality of a drawing.
Your practice is characterized by the use of analog photography techniques. How do digital photography and the advent of new photographic technologies impact your practice?
Digital photography has its uses, but for me, you can't compare a print made digitally with a print that is made by hand. There will be a time when it catches up, but for me, there has to be some labour involved. It's not just a question of pushing a button on the printer and an image comes out. It has its uses though. For things like photo montages and image manipulation, it becomes very interesting and I'm starting to see programs now for glitching images. The whole digital thing came out when cable TV started. We had amazing things happening because the pictures were sometimes out of control. We started getting split screens and weird colours occurring. These kinds of things were fascinating to see and it influenced me as a painter. It's great how the digital can be influenced by the analog and vice versa. There's a definitely a crossover there. I start to think sometimes of myself as a machine when I'm emulating a photograph. It has almost become a mechanical aspect, but the beauty of it at the end of the day is because of its human element. There is the room for error. Computers might be able to emulate art, but it'll be a sad day when we leave art to be made by computers and machines.