Beginning years ago with traditional landscape work, my photographic art has always explored natural phenomena. Even when showing the built environment, I emphasize the effects of time and weathering, obstruction of light, and decay of structures. Since 2014 I’ve worked on abstract depictions of the world.
In 2014, I completed 22 images for the Vacant Nests series. I had collected scans of birds and eggs as my pet finches died over several years and finally had enough material to work with. When Vacant Nests was finished I realized that these prints, showing close detail, were somewhat abstract.
By abstracting, I allow images freedom of reference and interpretation. I’m searching for their ability to be seen and reacted to as artworks without dwelling on what is shown and where it is. Pictorial elements and the use of motion can resemble the use of line in painting. Very dark earthtones can be changed into washes of white “paint.” These images show a subject in a way that is different from what we usually observe.
This process emerged in 2014 by considering imagery I was consistently drawn to. I made prints, studied them, and compared them. I began to alter color values in an effort to find something new in the imagery. The result was Nothing, in the World, my first intentionally abstract series. It used existing images from previous landscape work as source material and it concerned nature in general.
The next project, Zone of Transformation, was completed in 2015 working in the Mojave Desert. The series shows a liminal environment where identity can be difficult to ascribe, in the transition zone between depiction and abstraction. This was the first time I captured images in camera to deliberately to alter them. The resulting series offers an unexpected view of the desert environment.
In 2016 and 2017 I have intensively worked to advance this abstract vision. I have also returned to the handmade book craft with a two-volume set of the Strangeness of Seeing project which examines the use of detail in visual art.
My process causes a reduction of recognition but not of complexity. It may seem confusing but chaos is, after all, natural order.
I look for ambiguity in the world as a meaningful way of considering existence. I use photography’s natural specificity to investigate the unclear meaning of the situations and objects pictured, and as a starting point for visual composition. This search through ambiguity is, paradoxically, as real as the physical things pictured.
My early work used landscape as a subject of contemplation or a metaphor for human experience, as well as for its own beauty. Over time my images have become somewhat more abstract in intent and form. From project to project, different subjects and techniques provide a slow, gradual way of working with interrelated ideas of connecting the outer world with the inner.
I make my own digital prints using fine archival materials. Technical mastery of the printing process allows me to present my images exactly as I want them.
Photography as a visual art has always had a peculiar connection to the real world — to particular subjects, locations, and times. My intention is to explore depictions of reality (worth examining because they are real) while acknowledging the mysterious relationships of what I see in the world
Irene Imfeld’s landscape and nature-based imagery draws on aesthetic traditions from realism to minimalism. Always grounded in common reality, beginning as straight photographs captured by the artist, the pictures often abstract the ordinary. Some are more recognizable than others as, over time, her work has become more abstract. Even the unmanipulated pieces show the everyday world as transcendent or strange, imbued with a sometimes ethereal, sometimes rough, beauty. The combination of digital technology and a longing for romanticism evokes the moment — and environment — in which we find ourselves. Her work is about the paradox of this co-existence seen within the beautiful place it occupies.