Matthias Schaller

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 February, 2010, 12:00am

Ben Brown Fine Arts IFC space
Feb 28-Mar 26

Some photographers prefer taking one shot of their subject. Not so for Matthias Schaller. For the German snapper, multiple is better, and more revealing.

'If I take a portrait of you, only one picture, maybe I'm right, maybe I can get something that's really significant. But if I take 10 pictures, there is the possibility that I will come closer to you', says Schaller, whose first solo show in Hong Kong opens at Ben Brown Fine Arts IFC space on Sunday.

The Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy) series is the largest of the three on show, consisting of 150 photographs of Italian opera house ceilings (including the one in Orvieto, right). 'A hundred and fifty because next year, [Italy] will celebrate 150 years of unification,' says Schaller.

He is an artist with a cultural anthropological background and his work is very much a creative extension of his socio-political interests, he says. 'I use the opera houses, the architecture of opera houses, as a metaphor to talk about Italy,' Schaller says. One reason for this choice of metaphor is that, 'politically, Italy became important at the moment that opera became a strong item. The unification of Italy [took place during] the same period,' he says. While he travelled 'all over Italy, from the north to the south of the country' to take the photos for Fratelli d'Italia, Schaller stayed closer to home for the series that takes its name from the technical word for the interior of facades.

'Contrafacciata [Counter-Facade] is my portrait of Venice,' Schaller says of the series of long first-floor halls inside the palaces on - or facing - Venice's Grand Canal. Currently comprising 26 photographs, the collection is still being worked on.

'The palaces ... are so deep they have a lack of light - because on the left and right, they cannot let light in,' Schaller says. And he sees this darkness as a visual metaphor for what is increasingly happening in the part of the world he calls home: 'Sociologically and demographically ... people are moving out of the city, it is becoming empty.'

Although the space-themed photographs in the Disportraits series were taken in Milan and Turin, their focus ranges beyond Italy and Italians to embrace 'human desires, the fight between countries [to see] who is technologically the first'.

Also, for the first time, a human figure - in the form of space suits worn by astronauts and cosmonauts - appears in his work. This way, 'I'm doing a portrait but not a direct portrait,' Schaller says. 'I want to draw attention again to the power of photography - but not merely on faces.'

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