Curator Christine Eyene’s Introduction for the Tiwani Contemporary Show
Drowning World is a visual attempt to capture the magnitude of climate change through portraits of flood survivors taken in deep floodwaters, within the remains of their homes, or in submerged landscapes, in the stillness of once lively environments. Keeping their composure, the photographed subjects pause in front of Mendel’s camera, casting an unsettling yet engaging gaze. These images, taken across the world, bear witness to a shared experience that erases geographical and cultural divides. They invite the viewers to reflect on our impact on nature and ultimately, on our own attachment to our homes and personal belongings.
Beyond the documentary aspect of this project, Gideon Mendel’s work subtly treads on the aesthetics of portraiture, a genre of which he pushes the boundaries by setting its décor in unlikely environments. Each portrait isolates individuals, couples or small groups that would otherwise be reduced to statistics. They also reveal their personalities and status through their clothes, style, even elegance.
Likewise, traces that have resisted the power of waters are reminders inscribed on wiped out streets and empty houses. These narratives take the form of writings on boards or pictures on walls. Mendel draws our attention to abandoned or lost photographs to which he lends a second lease of life as found images, still lives, or objects containing anonymous memories.
A disastrous element, water also contributes to the creative process. Washed out pigments create new painterly patterns, damaged films produce soft tones and mysterious haze, while architecture and landscape are reflected in the sparkling natural mirror.
The selection assembled for this show highlights the confusion of senses between the sight of landscapes of desolation and the attractiveness of colours and compositions. It seeks to examine the tension between drama and picturesque, and the fine line between documentary and artistic imagery.