Abstraction in not unique area

Call it a minor crisis – a positive one – or just a general thirst for rejuvenation, but lately I’ve been having a growing need to step into something completely new in my art practise. I do not want to abandon my long term projects but I need space for more experimentation. Perhaps the pandemic and some other current circumstances have created a situation in which I feel somehow jammed, doing the same thing over and over again.

Under cover and exposed (2021) – Jarmo Pikkujamsa

I have borrowed the title of this blog entry from somewhere in the social media, I forgot the source, please accept my apologies. But when I saw it, I felt an immediate connection to it, like entering a new house where you are certain you have never been and yet it all seems strangely familiar, room after room. Who knows, perhaps you have been there after all, in another life, or when you were a child, or in a dream… I have always given value to the ordinary, everyday random “meaninglessness” but I never thought I could return to it with a new eye. Perhaps I did think of it briefly in the end of last summer when I already found myself photographing abstract details and patterns that just kept popping in front of my eyes. To push things further, I am hoping to catch abstaction that is made of something larger than objects, such as man made or natural structures and spaces that themselves form the abstraction and encapsulate you within. I am warming up now!

I am currently writing a novel that is much about geography and streets and neighborhoods and lately I have also incorporated parts of the story to my street photography by documenting those areas in which the story takes place. It’s a lot of fun and I use one or the other – the story or the image – as a source of inspiration to develop both of them further. At the same time the storyline in the book is now in a state of a “travelogue” leading the reader through the lives of the protagonists and I am hoping to find another, more abstract geography, a fictional one that would come accross as a new dimension that belongs to the book and grows into you as the story unfolds. Maybe this is where I am heading next?

Cheikh Beye

I’ve always had a soft spot for railways, trains, railway bridges and particularly that noise under the bridge when a train passes… I just love the comfort of this most beautiful way of traveling. It is such a shame that the connection between Saint-Louis and Dakar has been lost, for decades now. Some years ago we created a flash mob with local youth and wanted to remind everyone, particularly the decision makers of the municipality, that the town owns a beautiful station building that is falling apart and has been swallowed up by the local market. This beautiful building could be maintained and – ideally – put into good use with and by local cultural actors. We handed out tickets in advance to the train that would arrive on one Saturday morning from New York (!) on its way to Dakar. Then our actual human train would arrive and perform theater and dance at the entrance of the station. I remember that some market sellers were genuinely a little alarmed in advance because their mountains of onions would literally be on the tracks, right where they had always been for years. Perhaps it would be a good time to create a flash mob Edition II with something much more dramatic, as our first attempt went unnoticed by the city hall. We did have fun with the crowds at the market though.

Here’s a few more photos from the gallery space and the current exhibition: photography by Cheikh Beye. It’s so good to have the gallery open again!

Fragments of the work of Cheikh Beye

Cheikh BEYE (1932 – 2012) from Thiès began his career as a photographer in Dakar in 1950. From 1954 he was the manager of the company Euréka-Photo in Thiès.

His photographic work consists, among others, of studio portraits but also press photos of the political sphere, sporting events etc. Naturally, in the city of railways, workers and the activities around the station figure in a large part of his photos.

We would like to thank the Beye family in Thiès for allowing us to show this work.

Fragments de l’oeuvre de Cheikh Beye

Le Thiessois Cheikh BEYE (1932 – 2012) commençait sa carrière comme photographe à Dakar en 1950. À partir de 1954 il était gérant de l’entreprise Euréka-Photo à Thiès.

Son oeuvre photographique consiste, entre autres, des portraits d’atelier mais également des photos de presse de la sphère politique, des événements sportifs etc. Naturellement, dans la ville du rail, les cheminots et les activités autour de la gare figurent dans une grande partie de ses photos.

Nous remercions la famille Beye à Thiès.

Galerie Éthiopique organizes exhibitions, end-of-residency events and film screenings at Rue Potin X Abdoulaye Seck Marie Parsine in Saint-Louis of Senegal. More information: Tel. +221 77 143 88 90 or info[at]ethiopiques.gallery

Organic photography and chlorophyll process

I have made some anthotype prints in the past but never found time long enough to experiment with that technique. So far my plan has always been postponed to “that next summer in Finland” when I would, in theory, attempt to extract some delicious photo sensitive juice out of the intestines of whichever plant or berry I could get my hands on. And then the summer would come, and I would be busy with too many other things... Now the new plan is that we will organize a workshop on anthotypes, so perhaps when it’s part of a more official residency program it will materialize in a more constructive way.

Anthotypes aside, I just realized earlier this week that I have a relatively easy access to banana leaves and decided to give it a go and make chlorophyll prints. I am a fan of Binh Danh’s work* and some years ago when I saw some of his portraits I knew that one day I would put my mind to it and try this process myself. And here’s that day! Below is my first print, which I made out of an old negative converted into a positive when the print was ready. That’s because I did not have a transparent positive to work with, I was just too eager to give it a go! This print had an exposure of approximately 24 hours. More experimentation is on its way now and with proper positives.

Maam Coumba Bang. Chlorophyll print (detail), 2020 © Jarmo Pikkujamsa
Sunglasses. Chlorophyll print, 2020 © Jarmo Pikkujamsa

I made the piece called Sunglasses of a positive that was printed on paper. I had to add some contrast to make the photo more visible though. I have sometimes used very thin white Japanese paper as a positive with good results, but this slightly opaque transparent paper did not work so well even if I had an exposure time of nearly 48 hours. Some other positives on paper were much more contrasted than this one and they all failed to print anything. I may need to experiment with the level of contrast as well since this work was the least contrasted and it produced a fairly decent print.

*Link to Alternative Photography and the chlorophyll process where you can see some examples of Binh Danh’s beautiful prints.

Afropolis expo: a teaser

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A first milestone in my Afropolis photo project: a work-in-progress exhibition. I framed twelve prints last night to show what I am working on. This small show is combining some sleek-looking photos and rough handmade and “unfinished” frames made out of old windows that are very easy to come by here in Saint-Louis. Doing this show has helped me a lot in both choosing the photos that I want to include in later exhibitions and defining the theme or themes that this project will bring forward. These twelve photos were taken in Addis Ababa and once I will have more material from the other cities – Dakar, Nouakchott and Bamako – these themes will certainly develop more in the process. For now I can say that visually I hope to capture some of the contrasts of neighborhoods that are human in size and “organic” against the modern construction boom with glass and steel buildings reaching up in the skies, and human activity characterized by informality that takes place in between these two dynamics. More of that later with more photos!

Ndar Ndar Music & Café, Saint-Louis: A work-in-progress photo exhibition “Afropolis 2020” with a focus on African urban space: Addis Ababa. The final exhibition material will be made in platinum prints in summer 2020.

The City on the River meets River City

From the series Deep (detail) 2019. © jarmo pikkujämsä

A selection of my underwater photography will be in a collective exhibition in St.Louis Missouri (US), hosted by Barret Barrera Projects and curated by Modou Dieng / Blackpuffin in October 4 – November 23, 2019. The exhibition will inaugurate a new and exciting art space in St.Louis.

Statement by Modou Dieng:​

The City on the River meets River City. Our Sister City from Africa: Saint-Louis, Senegal.

A tale of métissage, five centuries old, sitting at its heart. A duality in colors pulsing through the fashion, the jazz, the crafts, permeating all aspects of its culture. The artists who have lived there, who were born there, or those who have simply fallen in love with her, all feel this rhythm. Past, present and never ceasing.

I am very excited to be part of this and will share more details about the exhibition and other participating artists a little later!