Photographic negatives are drawn in charcoal on paper. Roads, tunnels and the countryside viewed from a car window refer to travelling and passage, but the reversed tonalities undermine a simple reading. The sun, sources of light and fireworks conserve their association with growth, illumination and celebration, but simultaneously allude to burning and destruction. Negatives are intermediary moments of imaging possibility, rather than statements of iconographic fact. In this process what is not there is just as important as what is, what is black is just as important as what is white. Blackness and shadows become foreground, and highlights become absence. I consider the photographic negative a natural and poetic way to talk about loss and doubt. My long-standing concerns with texture, layering and physicality in photography have led to drawings in which photographic imagery— which is usually considered purely optical, weightless, nearly virtual— is given a body. Charcoal, a dusty, burned substance, echoes the chemically transformed molecules of silver that make up a photographic image. Making these drawings allows me to touch the light I have been working with for so long: to get my hands dirty in it.
Light-bulbs and lamps are simple images, even clichés, when set in artists’ studios, but drawn negatives speak of the darker sides of creative practice, isolation, burning of midnight oil, time spent being consumed, fears and ambivalences. I also use these drawings as a reason to maintain an active engagement with my friends’ work.
Marina Berio is represented by Michael Steinberg Fine Art, New York.
Collection of the artist and of the Michael Steinberg Fine Art Gallery ; private collections of Nan Goldin, Denis Darzacq and Elizabeth Royer.