Review by Paul Anderson •
Natalie Christensen arrived in New Mexico six years ago, and immediately found inspiration in this alluring and enchanted place. She has been producing a series of sparse and minimalist images of her new home, and a selection of these are featured in this book. Her enigmatic images focus on the buildings, walls, windows, and swimming pools in and around New Mexico, and utilize the colors, textures and shapes of a Southwestern aesthetic.
Christensen’s images are open to a wide range of interpretation because of their sparse composition and content. Her photographs explore the relationships of geometric shapes to each other and to their surrounding environment. These images are metaphors for boundaries, limits, constraints, aspirations, and the like. The open nature of the photographs provides the viewer with both an opportunity and a challenge to arrive at their own interpretations.
Christensen at times provides her own insightful commentary. In one image, a swimming pool forms a pale blue rectangle in the lower left quadrant, and a window provides an opposing form in the upper right quadrant. These two shapes set up a sublime compositional tension, with an orange wall in the background providing a pleasing complement. A wall clock stares down on this sterile setting, and Christensen comments here that:
“This otherworldly space evokes luxury and loneliness for me. The clock is a reminder that we cannot escape the passing of time, even though everything looks suspended and still.”
These are indeed lonely images. Walls are everywhere, and in many of the images you get the impression that you are in an enclosed space separated from some great beyond. Doorways and windows hint at potential escape paths. Puffy white clouds seen over the tops of walls beckon. But are these clouds, and the better world they might represent, out of reach? Are the walls real or imaginary? Is life really better on the other side? These images ask many questions.
The composition and content of another remarkable image evoke a strong sense of stillness and quiet. This image has two large, luminous, horizontal rectangles that dominate a swimming pool scene. The large rectangular shapes bring to mind works by Mark Rothko. One rectangle is formed by a beige wall that occupies the upper half of the image. The other rectangle is formed by the wall’s reflection in the swimming pool, also beige in color, and dominates the foreground. The use of the common color serves as a strong unifying element, contributing to a sense of calm. A thin line of tile separates the two rectangles, while a pool railing rises up quietly from the water on the right. Is the railing inviting you in for a swim, or perhaps a descent into another world? Much can be read into this image.
The images are well sequenced in the book, although a few of them do not seem to naturally fit with the others. All of them are untitled, but the photographer does provide titles for some of them on her website, which can be illuminating.
This small book presents 23 images in a remarkably simple manner. Book construction is an interesting variation on that of a chapbook. There are 12 printed single sheets folded in half to create the book. Instead of a saddle stitch binding, the folded sheets are held in place by a blue elastic cord, which can be seen in one of the attached photos. Small magnetic clasps hold the book closed when not in use.
This book is the seventh in a bimonthly series of publications by Setanta Books. Each edition in the series features the work of a different photographer. Christensen’s book would appeal to those interested in minimalist and abstract photography.
Paul Anderson is a photographer/digital artist, working in Hermosa Beach, CA.
007 – Natalie Christensen
Photographer: Natalie Christensen, born in Kentucky, currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Publisher: Setanta Books; London, in collaboration with Open Doors Gallery, London, Copyright 2021
Written contributions: Brief biography of the photographer, and five short interpretive paragraphs written by the photographer.
Stiffcover (chapbook), 21cm x 16cm book with card wraparound cover in an edition of 350, 48 pages (12 folded sheets, 4 pages per sheet).
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