The British Council

British artist Catherine Yass's work comprises striking photographic
images mounted into wooden lightboxes.

Yass's works are characterised by their sumptuous colour, vivid limes and shocking purples. The lurid beautiful effect of saturated colour is achieved by cross-processing, taking a blue negative transparency and laying it over a positive transparency of the same image taken a few seconds earlier. Yass's recent series of work entitled Cell - on show at The Window Gallery - demonstrates her interest in the'psychology of spaces' and carries on from a previous series of work taken in psychiatric hospitals. The images in Cell are taken of police cell corridors, photographed looking down two hallways from the same position. Other images show a Window, Toilet and Hole as close ups, the way we would be attracted to these details in the space if we were occupants there. What attracts our attention, beyond the colours of the images, are the marks and writings on the walls, the wooden surface on the toilet basin, a toilet with a chain, another without. Our interest becomes focused on understanding how the spaces work. Later it becomes clear that one toilet is open to the corridor, in another toilet the space is closed, but the chain has been moved into a second space - perhaps to prevent a fatality. We have a sense of looking in and out of holes, but especially of watching others. On close observation of the works we realises we are looking at restricted confined spaces and our thinking is drawn to how we might feel in a place where our privacy is denied. This sense of observing this normally hidden space, is heightened further by the positioning of the works in a public street window, where perhaps at first from a distance the coloured light boxes may appear to be decorative and appealing, and the gravity of the subject matter is not apparent. Until recently Yass was best known for her portraits. Her exhibitions offered images of men and women, and often of those people who commissioned, bought, sold or selected her work. Recently Yass has chosen to photograph buildings often with the people who work there absent - a meat market without butchers, a construction site without builders, a stage without actors. Her portraits undermine tradition, her images of urban spaces similarly evade the parameters of traditional photographs. Due to the double nature of her images, we are reminded that her photographs are a record of past time that is forever gone. The stress on past-ness, and Yass' deconstruction of intimacy in her images by fixing the eyes of the subject away from the camera create a feeling of distance and a eerie sense of death. The initial inability to recognise clearly what Yass' images depict leads to a sense of unease, which often characterises the viewer's response to so much of her work. Her images prevent us from indulging in the fantasy of sharing the scene, rather we sense our separation form it and its past-ness from us. We feel an emptiness and loneliness from her images. However as soon as we concentrate on this we are once again drawn to the colours, as the light boxes assert their beauty.

For further information about the artist and exhibition please contact Andree Cooke or Michaela Kaplnkov at the above address
or on tel.: 02 - 2199 1123, fax: 02 - 2491 3839
email: [email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]