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The Universal Now

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January 1, 2011


At a residency in Helsinki back in the winter of 2004, I was required to produce a work “about” the city within a couple of weeks. In the face of such an impossible task I drifted aimlessly around Helsinki, and was drawn into the flea markets where I bought a handful of old photographic guides to the city in Finnish and Russian. I found that some of the landmarks featured in all the guides, then I found a couple of images that looked as though the photographers had conferred, agreeing on the best spot from which to frame a photograph.

This small discovery led me to the series I call “The Universal Now.” I take pages from books where I can almost exactly match the landmark and cut them together so that you still only see one image, though two are present. The patterns I use are those that preserve most of both images. By this I mean that if you were to fold all the flaps down in one image, you would see all of one page. Fold the other way and you’d see all of the paired image. Both pages are still whole and separate but brought together to form a new image, suspended in time.

I tend to work with photographs from London since I work live there. But I try to suggest in “Universal Now” that the works are less about place than time, and the individual’s relation to it. Formally they are like little puzzles with multiple solutions. When I find two photographs that are close enough I have to really pay attention to how they can be brought into a conversation one with the other, and the cut pattern has to coax a dialogue out of them.

Working on “The Universal Now” necessitates careful book-collecting, and in these books are many images which cannot hope to find a partner in “The Universal Now.” Looking at these, and liking some of them so much, I have found mates for other photographs using similar techniques of splicing and ruffling. These can escape the strictures of “The Universal Now,” and so over time other sets of work have emerged out of these books. One such series tends to show tower blocks from the sixties cut into landscapes or other very different places. Another series merges disparate interiors into unified rooms. All question the place of the viewer in time or space.

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Abigail Reynolds lives and works in London and Cornwall. She received her Masters of Art degree from Goldsmiths College, London. Her work has been exhibited throughout Europe and the U.S. Recent solo exhibits include Strange Attractor at Seventeen, London. In addition she operates Assembly, a live-work residency program located in St. Just, Cornwall, UK. She will have a solo exhibition of her work from December 10th to January 16th at Ambach & Rice in Seattle.

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