Claus Stolz's work is always provocative, and his latest book and exhibition are no exception.
Claus Stolz is a German photo and conceptual artist known for his unique radical form of analogue photography, involving long exposures and a variety of film materials to capture what he calls 'Heliographs'.
Living and working in Mannheim, his works have been exhibited worldwide, and his book Sunburns was published by Kehrer Verlag in 2009. His latest, ongoing series is titled The Chamber Play, and it's as groundbreaking as ever.
Uniquely, Chamber Play presents plants as a kind of theatrical production brought to paper. Here, Stolz combines and re-contextualizes natural and artificial beauty into irritating, absurd arrangements and asks questions such as "What is real, what is of natural origin? What is alive?" Each shot, in other words, represents a small staging, a poem of the feasible.
"These photographs present a challenge to our eyes," writes Pamela Pachl, PhD, in her explanatory text to the book. "Perhaps our sense of vision has actually become somewhat worn down through the flood of images that have also been created through image-based phenomena like Instagram."
Stolz's series, however, represents an antidote to this chaotic, visual tsunami. "Through their (also technically) complex staging and the resulting effect of confusion, Stolz's chamber plays present our sense of vision with a challenge. They are simultaneously food porn and superfood for the eyes (and mind) after a long day at the screen — something besides the consumption of visual fast food for a change."
The precision of his images allows us to meditate on the nature of transience, the passage of time and ageing, Pamela explains. "In this context, the withered orchid almost exudes the aura of an ageing film diva who has been given this opportunity to make one last glamorous appearance in the spotlight."
Most strikingly, the series features a mixture of real and fake plants, and the viewer is deliberately left confused about which.
"A single blossom is turned toward us, almost as if it were gazing at us with a look of suffering," writes Pamela. "It is not just the cable-tie restraint from the plant's packaging that is purposely left in the picture, but also the unnatural bending of the stem and, above all, the texture of the petals born from silicone foam that reveal these calla lilies as imitations: rolled up, bound together, squeezed into little boxes like sardines, and imported from faraway lands.
"The cable tie functions like a fracture, a rupture in our visual habits. It immediately destroys the last illusion of an authentic nature."
The book Chamber Play is published by Kammerspiel. Images from the series also appear as part of Reflektor, a group exhibition at the Neue Sächsische Galerie Chemnitz, from 6 December-2 February 2023.