Vera Lutter - Photographs London Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    “The first time I created a camera obscura, after I had realised how long I had to sit in there to adjust my eyes to the darkness, to see the projection, which is about 20 or 30 minutes – I thought I’d seen God.” (Vera Lutter)

    Vera Lutter was first inspired to work with the camera obscura on arriving in New York and renting a sub-let in a high rise commercial building, a move made possible by an artistic grant from the German academic body DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst) awarded in 1993. Trained as a sculptor in Munich, Lutter had now reached a crossroads as an artist: standing in this huge space with light flooding through the floor-to-ceiling windows, she felt as if she was part of the room, a figure melting in to the architecture. Inspired, she decided to record this sensation by using a camera obscura resting on the windowsill, with a piece of light-sensitive paper attached to the back wall. The intention was not to make a photograph but a conceptual piece of art, employing a type of elementary recording device dating back to the thirteenth century.

    Lutter’s early experiments were very much trial and error. She spent hours in the darkened space waiting for each image to appear on the paper; the results were haphazard representations, more abstract than descriptive. Initially she used large sheets of single-weight paper, which tore easily when washed in the photographic chemicals, and were so huge they folded in the trays, producing an uneven and distorted image. These days she uses double-weight paper and has become adept at rolling the work through large 60-inch troughs, being careful to maintain the precise speed necessary to avoid incurring developer marks on the finished piece.

    Lutter now uses a customised shipping container as her modern-day camera obscura, with an exposure time lasting anything from weeks to months. The huge, enigmatic works which result capture the slow passing of time, with transient elements leaving faint traces as they come and go during the life of the image’s creation.

    The subjects holding most fascination for Lutter are huge industrial buildings, commercial signs, planes, zeppelins, oil rigs, and intersections where travel begins and ends. Such scenes have a residue of human activity but are mainly devoid of mankind’s physical presence, although there is always the sensation of humanity hanging invisibly in the air. In this huge camera, the artist manifests the outside world’s grandiosity as a ghostly illusion of existence: some elements are expected, while others contradict what the viewer may imagine. All, however, are universal in that the finished ‘objects’ are born from Lutter’s fundamental interest in the medieval and the conceptual.


Palazzo Papadopoli Venice XIX: March 14

Unique gelatin silver diptych.
Each 239 × 143 cm (94 1/8 × 56 1/4 in); overall 239 × 286 cm (94 1/8 × 112 5/8 in)
Signed, titled, dated in ink on the reverse of the left panel flush-mount; initialled, dated in ink on the reverse of each flush-mount.

£40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for £46,850


17 May 2012