We take mobility and locomotion for granted. Our bodies are designed like a well-oiled machine and our nervous system works with such fluidity that we often forget the complexity involved in creating movement. It isn’t until we sustain an injury that we remember all the physiological aspects, and how hard it is when that range of motion is taken away from us.
Throughout time, and all over the world, capturing the very moment in which movement occurs has fueled many artist’s ambitions. From Degas’ dancers, to Turner’s “Rain, Steam and Speed,” to Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase,” movement has offered a certain magic.
Guillermo Ubilla’s series “Nudes in Motion,” currently on display at FIREFISH Gallery, contributes to the tradition of celebrating movement. His photographs are clean, well presented and strive to capture quick movements of the human body in a clear and visually penetrating way.
The photographs are black and white figurative images with simple compositions. Each image contains one or more nude female figure, the visual evidence of its movement, and nothing else. The backgrounds are black or white, providing an empty space through which the bodies can move. Ubilla exposed his images over a period of time and captured the artifacting and blurring as his models moved. The evidence of movement is caught in the form of fingers tracing lines across the composition, fuzzy spheres repeating themselves in space, or phantoms appearing behind shadowy figures. Each piece gives the impression of shadows, blurred vision, even echoes of inverted x-rays. The contrast within the images is heightened, the edges are soft, supple and distinctly human.
The photographs are not portraits. The identity and details of the individuals, other than an occasional tattoo, are not significant. The figures in the photographs are all females and all nude. The lack of clothing reveals bizarre and interesting details of the figure’s movements. The collapsed time twists and contorts the bodies of the models. However, it is not clear in the photographs why the figures are all female. As a study of movement, the show seems narrowly focused in this respect.
The images give the viewer little choice but to focus on the figure in motion. The black space around the figures serves a few purposes. It provides contrast, sets the figures in a particular place in the composition and also provides an empty feeling where we can easily imagine where the figures are moving next. In many of his images this purpose is clear and effective. However, Ubilla also tends to overuse blank space, achieving a crisp design and aesthetic, but conflicting with the way the image functions. The large spaces sometimes add nothing to the image or even dampen the effect of subtle movements in the figure.
According to the artist, “The idea behind the project was to capture the movement of a human body over a period of a few seconds. Often photographs are about a single, decisive moment capture in a fraction of a second. I wanted to take a moment and spread it out over a few seconds and see what kinds of shapes and patterns the human body can make under those conditions.” To accomplish this, Ubilla used a variety of lighting equipment; continuous lighting sources and flash stroboscopic lighting, as well as a long shutter speed to record the path of movement of the body. The method used to capture these images is not obvious, leaving the photographers work mysterious and a little eerie.
The finished pieces clearly depict how well Ubilla uses the tools of his craft. He also printed, matted, and framed all of the pieces for the show himself. Each portion of Ubilla’s creative process has been well controlled with quality in mind.
Guillermo Ubilla’s show “Nudes in Motion” at the Firefish Gallery opens Thursday, June 6 from 7pm – 9pm and will remain on display for the month of June, a month in which we celebrate the photograph.
It is well worth a visit to see well thought out and well presented work by a local artist. Ubilla was also recently featured in Black and White Magazine.
~Rose Guterbock and Aaron Miller of C’ville Art Blog