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John Chervinsky on Hourglass, Painting on Door, 2012

Hourglass, Painting on Door, 2012 -- John Chervinsky

In his Studio Physics series, photographer and scientist John Chervinsky captures the passage of time in his carefully composed still lifes. After assembling his scene, Chervinsky makes a photograph that he then crops and sends to a painting factory in China where it is reproduced with an artist's brush. During the time it takes for the painting to be made and shipped, the initial still life sits and ages, allowing for the display of the passage of time when the painting is incorporated into the still life and rephotographed. The resulting images are a spellbinding combination of photography and painting, the past and the present, the seen and the unseen.

Our exhibition featuring work by Julie Blackmon and John Chervinsky closes on September 15th, but before it does we are happy to be able to share with you another statement from Chervinsky on the creation of one of his photographs. 

Until recently, I’ve attempted to express visually, a fairly impersonal trajectory of the passage of time. Even as much as I’ve included motifs commonly used in Vanitas paintings, I don’t necessarily expect the viewer to get an emotional charge as they contemplate the state of decay of my subjects. In fact, much of the symbolism that I typically include comes from a worldview based on reason. For example, I have very strong associations with objects like keys, locks, doors and so forth. Scientific research is just that: solving a puzzle, unlocking a mystery, opening the door to knowledge.

Earlier this year, and as I was working on the beginning stages of Hourglass, Painting on Door, 2012, my mother became very ill. She actually passed away as the right side of the hourglass was being painted, across the globe in China. After several weeks, I finally felt like working again, and began with the final assembly. I didn’t set out to create the image because I happened to be going through a personal crisis, but its final realization was certainly affected by it.

I decided to add an anonymous vintage photograph. I thought that it might be an interesting idea to get a viewer to not only to think about time and its physical manifestation (as expressed by the lock, the key and the physical act of the falling sand), but also place an emphasis in human terms. Does the symbolic aspect of the hourglass, combined with the mysterious photograph and even my own reflection in the doorknob, locked in time by the strobe, move you to think about the sadness of time slipping away? It did for me, when I tripped the shutter.
detail from Hourglass, Painting on Door, 2012 -- John Chervinsky
I believe that there is fertile ground to sow by running a humanistic narrative, in counterpoint to an indifferent, yet seemingly infinite universe. I don’t yet know how this may manifest itself in future work, but I’m excited to try.

Two summers ago I had the pleasure of reading How it Ends by astrophysicist Chris Impey. In it, he gives us an excellent, if not terrifying, yet mathematically precise sketch of the entire history of our 13.7 billion years of time, and us in it:
“To get a grip on this vast track of time, let’s shrink or accelerate the history of the universe by a factor of 13.7 billion. Imagine it’s now the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and the big bang took place at the same time last year. Planet Earth forms in Mid September, cells with nuclei first appear in Mid November, animals began colonizing the land on December 21. The first humans evolve just an hour and a half before midnight on December 31. The glory of the Renaissance, the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions, the space Age, and the rise of computer technology all fit inside the last second of this cosmic year. A human life in this scale model is a little more than a tenth of a second. If the universe has existed for a year, all our personal hopes, dreams and ambitions are squashed into the blink of an eye”
There is a parlance of the term the sublime - which is sometimes called "pleasurable terror" and one that I feel when I read the Impey passage. I follow our scientific advancements with great enthusiasm. I love seeing the great imagery now being beamed back to earth from Mars, from the Curiosity rover. As the pieces of the puzzle slowly assemble toward completion of our scientific understanding, it can also be an unsettling experience - especially if we try to place it in human terms. I cannot think of a deeper well of artistic inspiration, I hope I can do it justice. -- John Chervinsky

For more information on John Chervinsky's photographs, please contact Anne Kelly at photo-eye Gallery by email or by calling (505) 988-5152 x202.