SANTA MONICA, CA.-
German artist Nicola Dill's Sea Etchings series is reminiscent of gesture drawings or the brush strokes found in East-Asian calligraphy. They are actually photographs of surf grass washed up on sandy shorelines of the Pacific. An installation of the work is on view at RoseGallery
at the Bergamot Station Arts Complex in Santa Monica for an extended run in the South Gallery through September 17, 2011. The Sea Etchings were recently published by Nazraeli Press in an exquisite limited-edition artist's monograph comprising in Dill's words "an installation of images that float across the pages akin to notes of a melody collaborating in a moving meditation." The work is informed by the artist's longtime practice of t'ai chi, infusing it with a contemplative and rhythmical aesthetic.
Un-staged and recorded in-camera, these "found" compositions are gestures in patience and time as the artist waits for the sea and grass to produce what Dill describes as "temporary etchings." Shot over several years along the coast of Southern California, she photographs with direct overhead sunlight to produce minimal shadow, so that each blade of grass becomes the very essence of line and gesture - some starkly linear, others riotously round. In the words of the artist herself, "the images exude a sense of lightness, joy, playfulness, mystery, and innocence. They are reminiscent of the inherent qualities found in the simplified abstractions of the American painter Agnes Martin, a vital influence in my work."
In the exhibition's small-scale prints that correspond with those of the monograph, the marks of the waves in the sand are barely visible. The larger prints capture the random complexity of the sand, revealing the myriad sizes, shapes and tints of each individual grain, giving the impression that the sand is three-dimensional and multi-layered.
The temporary compositions that Dill documents are as fleeting as the next wave, capturing an ephemeral world that speaks powerfully to the very nature of existence. "They reflect," says Dill, "upon something vulnerable. They evoke a memory or feeling that is different for each viewer."
Nicola Dill's photographs have been widely published and exhibited in the United States and in Germany. She is represented by the Robert Morat Galerie in Hamburg, Germany. She studied photography at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and the New School for Social Research in New York. She lives in Los Angeles.