Since its commercial introduction in 1839, photography has been a medium caught between the two poles of ‘art’ and ‘science’. While the images created with objects, people or scenes placed before a lens were once spoken of as imprinted by nature itself – and thus free from the frail human hand prone to error – photographic images have of course always been subject to human manipulation, with combination-printing of multiple negatives on a single sheet of photographic paper the 19th century equivalent of Adobe Photoshop. Photographs and photography could be at once both objective and scientific, and subjective and artistic. But in the twentieth century, with the advent of digital photography and editing software, barriers dissolved and the only limit to photographic picture-making became the human imagination.
Romanian born and trained artist Diana Buzoianu uses photographic imagery and Photoshop to create her work, and in her first London exhibition – at the wonderfully bijou 54 The Gallery in Shepherd Market – we find the products of her imagination and her fears. London is her subject, reimagined in almost-apocalyptic, other-worldly terms. She focuses chiefly on areas she feels overlooked in the pictorial canon, like the financial district of London, making liberal use of iconic buildlings like the Shard and the Gherkin – presumably included to signal ‘City’ to the viewer. Describing her work as creating an alternative reality of the capital and posing questions about what happens if we neglect built-up spaces and the urban environment, Buzoianu’s answers to these questions are vortices of buildings collapsing into each other, their steel and glass structures imploding.
Digital technology is preternaturally pliable, allowing a digital image effortlessly to metamorphose and to connect with other digital forms. Buzoianu’s cityscapes and urban spaces of London, while recognisable and ethereal, are also at times derivative, pun-like and perilously literal. A Financial Bubble and Ignoring the Storm (both editions of 4) are cases in point – the former showing London’s financial district overlaid on a close-up shot of a water droplet, while the latter gives Nelson on his column, turning his back to thunderous storm clouds. Other images are more sophisticated and powerful: Bridge over Troubled Water is particularly arresting, with Charing Cross Bridge sagging and plunging into the Thames, passing through a phantom London Eye –the image giving a keen sense of anxiety and alienation, a transcendent quality missing from other, more verbatim works.
Meanwhile, the two rooms of the Shepherd Market gallery are counterpoised – the main space with its apocalyptic images of London, the smaller room at the back offering respite with dream-like images whose titles include Tree of Life and Hidden Love. These two works are luminous, shimmering compositions in aquamarines and blues and seem, if anything, more vital than the London scenes.
Diana Buzoianu’s show is thus, in one room, a mix of poetic, dreamy fantasies of perfect human love – and, in the other, images that attempt to call forth future visions of alienation and dystopia. The rooms are radically different in their effect and – some may feel – their effectiveness. Perhaps this fall from grace is part of the point: but whether it makes for a satisfying exhibition is another question altogether.
Diana Buzoianu trained in Romania and in London, and has lived here for the past two decades. Her work is available on her website http://www.dides.co.uk. She undertakes commissions, and can be contacted through her site. Urban Indispensable, her exhibition, ran from 13th – 18th July 2015 at 54 the Gallery, and was supported by the Romanian Cultural Centre, London.