Jessica Thalmann Latent Images On My Skin
Lobbies, doorways, and escalators populate Toronto artist Jessica Thalmann’s video essay, Latent Images On My Skin. A rumination on time as a measure of distance, as a transformational space that converts experience into lingering imprint, the work traces the history of photographic chemistry, folding in photography’s earliest pioneers (and friends) John Herschel and Julia Margaret Cameron.
Drawing parallels between the imperceptible chemical interactions of photographic development and the absorption of experience into memory, Thalmann considers the cyanotype printing process while navigating the destabilizing space of trauma and personal grief. At times ethereal and poetic, as well as disorienting and remote, the artist’s camera moves through architectural spaces of transit as a means of emotional navigation, while other sequences forge connection with the details relayed in her voice-over, recorded as an explanation of the process as an observed series of impressions.
The creation of cyanotype printing is historically associated with scientific progress—the mixing of tinctures, the precise, timed exposure to light, the regimented acts of rinsing, and the final step of drying each experiment. This history prompted Thalmann to reflect on the cyanotype’s seminal figure, British scientist John Herschel, who formulated the process almost two hundred years ago. While Herschel is mechanically described as a scientific innovator, the artist asked herself what compelled him to pursue such a magical invention. She muses on Herschel’s long friendship with British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, contemplating her gestures of care when asked to take the scientist’s final portrait in his old age. Shifting the frame of reference back to the present day, Thalmann considers her own model of care for her mother, who had recently emerged from a coma. This time-based work is both chronicle and inquiry, charting the impressions, attempts, and ruptures that characterize the pursuit of durability and connectedness across time.
Thalmann opens with a description: “As I rinse the iron salts away, the yellow solution drips down my hands and arms, only to pool in the fleshy crook above my elbows. I wash it off as best as I can, from the cotton fabric between my fingers and from my body. It won’t be until the next morning that the sun’s unmoving gaze develops those absconded drips into latent images on my skin. An alchemy of light—small blotches of dark blue commingling with my brown freckles.”
Presented by Christie Contemporary
Jessica Thalmann holds a Master of Fine Arts in Advanced Photographic Studies from ICP-Bard College and a BFA in Visual Arts from York University. Thalmann likes to mess with photography, to test its limits. Whether bending, tearing, tessellating or folding, she coaxes images of structural solidity (she has an abiding interest in brutalist architecture) to accommodate dimensional interventions to their representative, utopian angularity. Her work has been featured in exhibitions at Aperture Foundation, International Centre for Photography, and Humble Arts Foundation (New York); VIVO Media Arts Centre (Vancouver); Varley Art Gallery of Markham (Markham); Art Gallery of Mississauga and Blackwood Gallery at UTM (Mississauga); Museum of Contemporary Art, Harbourfront Centre, and Gallery TPW (Toronto).