This is about what I call convertibles.*


Woman at a Yakitori restaurant – Convertible
© Jan Oberg 2007

Most likely you see this picture as a kind of abstract painting. But it isn’t. It’s an adapted – or cultivated – version of a photograph I have taken some years ago – a woman at a Yakitori (chicken) restaurant in Nagoya, Japan in 2007:



Woman at a Yakitori restaurant
© Jan Oberg 2007

“Convertibles” is the title of my next exhibition, to open on October 20, 2012 at my studio at Vegagatan in Lund, Sweden.

So a photograph is no longer necessarily a depiction of reality – if it ever were. I gladly confess that I am thrilled by making “convertibles” – converting, transforming, elaborating, metamorphosing or just processing photographs. Why?

Well, look at the two images above. The original is easy to decipher, I mean you see immediately what it is – a young Japanese woman at a restaurant, turning her back but not her attention to what happens in the room behind her. From that surface perception you may of course begin to interpret the situation – why is she so aware of what happens behind her? Why is there a plate next to her – did someone leave her? Is she perhaps related to somebody in the back of the room? Are the men talking about this lonely woman – etc?

Here you focus will be on the situation depicted by the image itself. In the first, more abstract version you are likely to focus more on shapes, lines, shadows and discover the figure (provided you have not seen the original first) – you’ll judge whether you like the colours, the rythm, etc. Since you see only contours, you may have to use more of your imagination – and perhaps you’ll just see as a non-figurative painting.

I’m not saying one is better or more interesting than the other, not at all. I am, however, grappling with questions such as: What is a photograph? What is a photo a photo of? What type of transformations produce which types of perceptions and experiences? What is the distance between the concrete or unique and the more general or universal? The original photo is very concrete – the converted version is much more general – it could be anywhere and not that particular time and space, I believe.

We may also ask where a photo stops being a photo and becomes something else – a piece of graphics or a more painting-like image? And should it matter?

And we may conclude that one image consists of potentially millions of images and appearances. Technologies such as digitalization and Photoshop offer entirely new opportunities, limitless – or limits only set by creativity and aesthetics in the mind of the artist and the viewer.

Or – why not? – we may conclude that all this should not be intellectualized. Just look at different images and see whether you like them, whether they create some associations or ideas in yourself. Do these two images assist you in seeing many worlds in the concrete little restaurant there in Nagoya in 2007? It’s anyhow a fleeting moment when you shoot a picture so – who knows who that woman really were, or are, or where she is? What that restaurant looks like today, if it even exists? Perhaps in my memory, contrary to that of the digital file, it looks more like the convertible of than the “real” one?


* Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
“Herein lies the explanations of the analogies, which exist in all the arts. The are the re-appearance of one mind, working in many materials to many temporary aims.
Raphael paints wisdom, Händel sings it, Phidias carves it, Shakespeare writes it, Wren builds it, Columbus sails it, Luther preaches it, Washington arms it, Watt mechanizes it.

Painting was called “silent poetry,” and poetry “speaking painting.”
The laws of each art are convertible into the laws of every other.”

“Woman at Yakitori Restaurant”
Nagoya, Japan 2007
Same information for original and convertible version:

Inkjet print on Canson fine arts paper or on canvas
Formats & prices (excl postage):
A5 (148 × 210 mm) – Edition unlimited, 20 US$
A4 (210 × 297 mm) – Edition 50, US$ 115
A3+ (329 x 483 mm) – Edition 25, US$ 225
A1 (610 x 910 mm) – Edition 10, US$ 750
Can also be printed on other media such as canvas or various types of metal.
Signed and numbered.
Comes with print authenticity documentation.
© Jan Oberg

More photos here





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