past

Julian Mullan

Times Past

11. February 2017 - 04. March 2017

Galerie Nathalie Halgand is pleased to present Julian Mullan’s (*1982) first solo exhibition.

This could be anywhere. Trying to locate Julian Mullan’s motives is thoroughly precluded by his accurate cropping of the image, the proximate step after deciding on the motive in the process of a geminated selection routine. The immanent calm evokes notions of emigration and deserted sites, the numerous towns left for better economic opportunities. Present fears due to the ever-growing industrial automation, including our means of transport, i.e. cars, and its impact on human work force emerge.

In the face of the upcoming changes technological progress enables, Mullan’s sculpturalisation of the everyday object can’t be read as merely aesthetic or as sheer capitalisation of shape and color for artistic purposes. Nor can it be considered as the means to force the audience to a more acute perception and focus (for instance, a reflecting puddle on concrete – simple but a fortiori radiant). IT is rather a massively accelerated crescendo leading to the eve of the crisis, a documentary of the soon-to-be-discarded, a stroll through the still-there, which, in a not so far fetched future, can be viewed in museums only.

Mullan took some of the images years ago, as if intuiting the preciousness and fleeting of what we call commonplace now. The frequently occurring interruptions via diagonal lines are echoed in the selection of works for the exhibition, the “haunted” images are contrasted by images of somewhat untouched nature, resembling a different sort of human absence.

Simultaneously, he seems to present a possible pastime, for a future humanity: within the time won due to automatisation lurks the possibility of a return to delight in the given, the pristine.
His works might as well be diagnostic of a strange nostalgia, already somewhat palpable but yet to come, about the wistful enjoyment of apparently unaffected spots in growing awareness of the Anthropocene, the age in which one species has induced profound consequences by its various interventions on this planet.
I also have to think of the filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, who, like Mullan, valued color and contrast as an important element of his work. Both are incorporating architecture. Either are fond of ambiguity too. Like a string, from one to the other, one is confronted with the rise of classic industrialisation, while the other works in times of the fall thereof. The buildings depicted, respectively sections of, are in either case constructed for maximum utilisation, featuring nothing ornamental or too inviting, bleak and mistakable: a photograph is a copy after all, and the photographed buildings are, due to the schematic and simply viable repetition regarding structure, too.

But not only the death of a major portion of the work force and general conditions of a first world existence as we know it is surfacing as a theme, there are increasing rumors about the demise of photography. Well-known is the threat that photography at its advent posed to painting, and the following reinvention of the latter medium. Now the tables have turned and the time has come for photography to find ways to re-establish itself and secure its place in the wake of an egalitarian, more instant and less conscious practice of it.

Unflinching, Mullan is continuing to embrace the slowness of the trade. The indeterminable, cropped-away surroundings of the image he presents conjure intrigue. The gaze, that his minute precision encourages could be the very essential characteristic that might translate into a new appreciation and survival of the medium in the end.

Sandra Petrasevic