Since always, the tree, this mystery in full light, has fascinated photographs.
From Ansel Adam’s naturalist fervor, who has left us hundreds of pictures, from the 30’s onwards, taken in the great American natural parks, to the photograph Beth Moon who travelled the world in search of the world’s oldest trees, to the symbolic mannerism of Israeli Tal Shochat who cleans fruit tree branches before immortalizing them on black fabric backgrounds, trees remain one of the artists’ subject of predilection.
This obsession for these life generating creatures brushing past immortality and connecting us to the sky comes with a feeling of loss and desire for initial purity.
The tree, this sacred being, reunites us with our selves’ best.
The protagonists of Sasi Somu’s exhibition at Centre d’Art in this month of November, are not simply trees – they are Auroville’s trees.
‘’Fifty years ago, when Auroville was born, it was a desert, there were no trees around – explains Sasi – the first inhabitants planted them. They are exactly the same age as the city and have developed along with it. They are, therefore, privileged witnesses.’’
It is also a testimonial which the photograph offers us, whose vision renders us, the spectators, in turn, witnesses.
‘’And if they could speak…’’
What Sasi’s images do, is give the trees a voice.
For years he has been tirelessly photographing them from all angles, alternating seasons, time of day, light variations, exploring textures, patterns, contrasts.
This exhibition, we could say, is a frozen frame in a process with endless creative possibilities. ‘’This work is not finished, and will never be. Each discovery leads to another and generates connections as complex as the structure of the branches, the roots, the leaves.’’
What interests most the photograph, is the tree’s relationship with the environment, to what extent the physiognomy of a landscape, its atmosphere, are shaped by its presence.
‘‘This is why I don’t use frames, it creates a separation. The picture is a moment in a story being told. There is a before, an after, and all that is happening around an image that is not isolated stays subtly perceptible.’’
With this perspective, Sasi shifts the borders of what is visible, cutting his images into fragments which are all, in themselves, an abstract composition. The elements of the polyptichs thus created can be distanced. The space, as a silence or a breath in music, generating rhythm and tension, underlines the plasticity of the composition.
The feeling of freedom and respect which transpires through these images is born from rigorous stylistic choices. The choice of analog photography, of black and white.
Analogy is the key word of this exhibition.
Analogy between the long work of the pre-digital era photograph and the patient development of the plant system, the shots and ensuing complex phases of the chemical process, the time factor, the transition from film to paper, from negative to positive, the role of light in the development, the photosynthesis.
Analogy claimed until osmosis between classical photography and the tree.
From one to the other, a declaration of love.
Dominique Jacques, October 2020