Erwin Olaf - Fall
Art Statements Gallery
Today until Dec 27
There is a magnetic quality to Erwin Olaf's narrative photography that draws viewers into the seemingly muted world of his subjects. In his atmospheric Grief series (2007), the Dutch artist chooses to portray a sense of solitude rather than sadness that adds more depth and drama to the images.
Then there are his in-your-face portraits in the Royal Blood, Fashion Victims and Chessman series that portray the human body in ways that both disturb and tantalise. Olaf's work can never be taken at face value because beneath that glossy surface there are often messages that probe and challenge old as well as new concepts.
In his latest solo show Fall, which opens tonight at Art Statements Gallery, the commercial and fine art photographer questions the notion that a great portrait captures a fleeting moment of perfection and reveals honesty in the eyes of the sitter.
Olaf turns this on its head and presents awkward portraits of young models either looking down or away, their gaze unfocused, thus masking their real emotions. They are shown alongside still-life images of foliage in painted vases. In contrast, these plants are pert and spiky yet become complementary when viewed together.
'I am intrigued by the idea of a portrait in which something is out of sync,' says the 56-year-old.
'It became a new type of sexy, to photograph a beautiful model blinking at the wrong moment, using a camera angle that is slightly wrong. It is disturbing to see this incorrect fraction of a second frozen in a portrait.
'Yet with the still-lifes, there is a timeless aspect, since I could make tiny changes during the shoot, moving the plants a little bit to the left or to the right. When the portraits are seen on their own, they seem restless, but when they are placed next to the plants, they gain a more relaxed attitude.'
Olaf graduated from the Utrecht School for Journalism with a degree in newspaper journalism and photojournalism in 1980 and has pursued a successful career in commercial photography. His works have appeared in publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Sunday Times Magazine and Vanity Fair.
The award-winning artist is in Hong Kong to launch his new book, which features three of his bodies of work: Rain, Grief and Hope.
Mon-Fri, 11am-7pm, Sat, 11am-6pm, 5 Mee Lun St, Central. Inquiries: 2122 9657