Here the picture loses its identity as such and becomes a detail of assembly, an essential structural element of the whole which is the thing itself – László Moholy-Nagy
Eva Louisa Jonas’ Let’s Sketch the Lay of the Land is steeped in this notion of assembly. Her low-contrast monochrome images act not as singular pieces, but in relation to one another across and through the pages of the book, culminating in an experiential whole. The physical makeup of the book also enters into this conversation. The highly tactile cover, images that emphasise the handling of objects, and references to sculptural paper constructions, all interlace to form a tangible and visual total. Jonas’s work touches on the dichotomies of intimacy and peripheries, seer and seen, image and text as well as ideas surrounding surface, gesture, place in time, and creative intuition.
In her practice Jonas frees her photographs from the institutionalised confines of “projects” and instead allows them to exist in a state of flux. Freed of a fixed context, taken at different times and in different places, the resulting photographs converse with each other in delicate and thought-provoking ways. Page spreads become more than satisfying visual poetry: they combine delicate observation, lived experience and informed associations, both artistic and intellectual. The contours of a shoulder anthropomorphise a rock of similar shape, followed by a void space of dirt in a tightly composed wooded landscape. The weighty mass of a rock (or rather the image of such) is suspended weightlessly on its side whilst on the adjacent page the Long Man of Wilmington lies supine. Visually pleasing and intuitive compositions give rise to deeper questions of peripheries, physical matter, line, and gesture, beyond the impact of any one image.
At times, Jonas’ photographs bring us back to the physical form of the book itself. Images of materials and human interaction with them appear consistently throughout. However, it is in the moments where the artist shifts from being a passive but sensitive observer to being a participatory creator that reveals the work as something beyond just a visual experience for the viewer. An image of a sculptural spread of papers, for example, with one sheet folding is a simple enough cue for the viewer to reflect on that which is seen and that which is held. But it also reveals an intimate connection between the artist and us, mediated by the materiality of paper.
Jonas’s work touches on the dichotomies of intimacy and peripheries, seer and seen, image and text as well as ideas surrounding surface, gesture, place in time, and creative intuition.
The feeling of considered reflection between both artist and viewer is never more clearly felt than when reading a spread of fragmentary texts that appear on the final page. Lines such as ‘touch, look, feel, sit, lie, be’, ‘dance between depth and surface’ and ‘natural form, made from, miniature’ allow us to reflect on what we have previously observed, as opposed to the text altering our perceptions of the images had it appeared throughout the book. This sensitivity to the relationship between image and text demonstrates Jonas’ permission for her photographs to exist beyond the limitations that language can place on images.
As a whole, Eva Louisa Jonas’ practice is one of experiencing, understanding and interpreting the world. Let’s Sketch the Lay of the Land is no exception: once you open the textured brown papered cover, the book is almost cyclical – start on any page and you immediately enter into the experience. Let’s Sketch the Lay of the Land is a contemplative collating of what has come before, what exists in the present, and a future that cannot be fastened down, forever possessing the potential to manifest itself again and again.