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Monograph review by Rebecca Smith.

Many artists have an anecdote or two from their childhood that, to them, demonstrates how they ended up in their field, making the work that they do. In such a mercurial and difficult occupation, some sense of fate can be fortifying.

In a statement at the end of Afterimage, Renata Buziak gives a telling anecdote along these lines. She recalls a childhood incident where her sister, Dorota, leaves an apple core on the artist’s school portrait, causing a mold-like stain to grow on the surface. The accompanying image of a young Buziak with a green microbial blot covering one eye is demonstrably eerie in its prescience of her work today– especially when we consider the influence her sister’s studies in microbiology have played in Buziak’s development of her signature biochrome images.

Buziak’s work is highly-innovative and instantly recognizable. Interested in the intersection between blind natural processes and scientific control, her works also occupies a space between the abstract and the figurative. While her images, at first glance, appear to be non-representational, we quickly realise the image is a literal record of the process of decomposition cultivated by the artist on the surface of the film.

Buziak bypasses light as the catalyst for a photographic image, but keeps the light-sensitive emulsion as a core element of the work. This process subverts the highly-controlled chemical process of film exposure and development by introducing another process—one more ancient and more sophisticated– which turns the technological triumph that is modern photographic film into food for micro-organisms. The colours and texture of her images are a result of the consumption of the photographic emulsion, and results in images that are surprisingly vivid, delicate and varied. The images also challenge our sense of scale and context– they could equally be aerial images of a landscape or something seen under a microscope, an aspect used in Afterimage to draw metaphorical connections to the Buziak’s childhood in Poland.

Afterimage is published by the Queensland Centre for Photography, the first in a series of smaller monographs to be produced by the Centre. While the book is intimate in scale, the inclusion of full-page details of images allow for close examination of the texture and detail so crucial to Buziak’s work. The main section of the book consists of full-colour reproductions of Buziak’s 2009 Afterimage series, and also includes a forward by Lyle Rexer, and an essay on Buziak’s practice, “Renata Buziak: Floribundm in extremis” by Dr. Victoria Garnons-Williams.
The book is bilingual, with all text provided in both English and Polish.

Afterimage retails at $AUD35, and can be purchased from the QCP’s online bookstore.

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