Sarah Chilman

I am an interdisciplinary artist currently working with photography and text. Using language as a visual and material basis for my photography work allows me to integrate literary techniques as well as those more familiar in visual arts. My practice explores the theme of Absence and Presence, presenting juxtapositions such as force and fragility, black and white, light and shadow to explore what is and what is not mentioned, represented, or evoked. By incorporating text, I generate a tension between the written and the visual that amplifies this theme, encouraging an element of investigation, reading and interpretation to uncover different layers of meaning. 

I am particularly interested in the question of whether text informs our reading of an image or indeed the other way around. Art writing has become prevalent in the visual art field today, with many artists attempting to bridge the gap between art and literature by implementing text as a visual entity in their work or using language as a material in some other way, for example suggesting that writing is a form of drawing. I have studied artists such as Christopher Wool and Emmett Williams for their work with text in relation to the visual. 

Photography offers a medium to convey a narrative through object and language, with compositions that heighten the visual representation of voids and absences. The hollow glass is fragile, breakable, forever being filled and inevitably emptied. Influential photographers include Mikael Siirilä, Ingrid Newton, and Francesca Woodman, all whose black-and-white photography also explores the themes of absence and presence. 

The title of my current study, "Words are Weapons," informs the interpretation of my photographs – turning them from highly ambiguous and perhaps banal set-ups, into politically active images. Words, like images, have force, meaning, and can wound; however, they can also be hollow, irrelevant, and disregarded.