Photo London, Somerset House
CHEMICALS, a new series by Charlotte Colbert, playfully explores the relationship between the chemicals of the photographic process and the chemicals of our mind and bodies. It looks to establish a unified synergy between the mind and image, the physical and metaphysical.
The photographic technique Charlotte Colbert employs for this body of work happens exclusively in the dark room. It is a very unique and hands-on process, which combines photograms, medical slides and liquid light. The artist describes the process as “ritualistic”, cleaning the paper, then painting it in the dark room, setting it to dry on large wooden boards and finally staging and exposing it.
“Preparing the paper under the dim red light of the dark room, with heated bowls and paintbrushes, feels like connecting to a tradition of witchcraft, where magic happens hidden, in secret corners, with potions and surprises. When the paper is exposed and layered, everything goes still, all is dark, only a rectangle of light exists bringing the paper alive. It’s like a parenthesis in time, a moment of stillness.”
Charlotte Colbert aims to keep the scientific process apparent, helping the viewer gauge the nature of image-making, while also connecting this very nature to that of our own human condition. “Both a careful, quasi magical, balance.”
Continuing with her use of symbolism, Charlotte Colbert stages scenes using herself or models and adds bold cut out symbols to the photographic process, creating powerful suggestive scenes, representing themes such as time, mortality, and fantasy and engaging them with the realities of science.
Charlotte Colbert’s layering of medical imagery, bodies and symbols of her world creates visceral and hauntingly powerful images, each of which is entirely unique. They defy, challenge and expand the photographic medium, integrating within it painting, performance and chemical self-awareness.