The series of Polaroid self-portraits in this exhibition, each simply titled Self-Portrait and made between 1984 and 1988, have none of the Pictures Generation’s caustic punk attitude or processual directness. They are gloriously hued, effulgent photographic apparitions in which the artist’s head and shoulders are melded with psychedelic patterns, waveforms, spirals, checkerboards, diagrams of sacred geometries and fractals. They entrance the eye long before they announce their critical or ideological agenda – if they ever announce it at all. (https://frieze.com/article/ellen-carey)
“Abstraction in photography and lens-based art presents a contradiction in terms, and minimalism presents a further oxymoron” she said.
Extract from Ellen Carey’s interview for Aesthetica magazine:
A: You call yourself a ‘lens-based artist’ rather than strictly a photographer. Can you describe the term abstract photography?
EC: All photographs are inventions and processes. Photography was always based on picture-signs: you had the portrait, the landscape, the still-life. With abstract photography, you don’t know what the picture is, or how it was made. I took out the picture signs. I got restless with straight photography, with the surface. You turn the camera on yourself. I started doing painted self-portraits.
A: It seems your investigations are akin to that of James Welling and Cindy Sherman, though of course her’s are not abstract.
EC: There are affinities and overlaps with what I do and what they do, as well as differences. My influences stem from the world of Dada, surrealism, and especially Man Ray. Russian Constructivism has also had a great influence on my development. With Jackson Pollock, for example, you had the gestalt of the brush, the thing itself. He took the canvas off of the stretcher, and put it on the floor. So, change of process. I stepped into the black box of the darkroom. Also tools are important; the Polaroid 20×24 was an innovation every bit as ground-breaking as anything Steve Jobs created.
Yu Ting Hsu