Eidolon in ancient Greek referred to a ghostly presence or phantasm, for which one needed to look with rigour and with care. A decent term for an artist then, and particularly apt for Anne Noble who has long worked with patient deliberation on subject matter ranging from the Whanganui River to Antarctica. She has most recently trained her formidable powers of observation upon the humble honey bee.
Eidolon II #3 and #6 are a visual requiem for the worker bee. Following the dark grounds of Noble’s Dead Bee Portraits, Eidolon II is the artist once again working white on white (recollecting the subtle tonal shifts of her Antarctic Whiteout series). She photographs casualties from her own hive, 3-D prints them in white resin, and re-photographs them before a white ground – utterly delicate in death.
The initial Eidolon series are quite different, made entirely in camera and printed big and in colour. Conceived in her Fulbright studio at Columbia University, New York in 2014/15, Noble placed plucked bees wings on the lit screen of her cellphone, stacked lenses on top, added side light and photographed looking down from above. The lenses blur edges which lend the photographs real movement and power. The camera focuses on the handsome veined wing struts and rainbows of light refracted through the wings themselves, each wing etched with a surface pattern almost its own. The images look beautiful but feel slightly haunting at the same time – testament to the poetry of the honeybee which faces a future of swirling difficulty.
The tintypes are the darkest presence in the show, which is a little ironic as Noble has obviously reveled in the rich materiality of this old photographic medium. Working the emulsion (almost floridly) onto aluminium sheet, and enjoying the directness of contact printing, A Bee Wing Morphology #6 and #7 combine the qualities of a naturalist’s slide collection with the photographer’s ability to conjure light out of darkness. They are terrific images. One-offs. And typically Noble, in their gentle insistence that art be informed by humanity and by inquisitive research – a pursuit of knowledge almost akin to science.
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.