Gallery Talk with Johann Besse

Can you share more about the role architecture plays in your work?

Architecture is very important in my work. Following previous experiments of using the camera as a prism to reveal the invisible geometry of a modern city, the Echos Series is based on the dissolution of architectural reflections in water. Perceived as purely abstract at first, these photographic images immerse the viewer into a luminous universe of vibrant colors, shapes, and patterns. Unable to focus on a single detail in these images, the eye is constantly moving around a fluid landscape that suggests infinity. Aiming to challenge the viewer, in between the microscopic, repetitive forms proliferating at the surface of the image, a motif appears. The image, that initially seemed perfectly flat, separates in new layers, similar to the reflection of a architectural structure dissolving in a river or a puddle.


What is the process behind the Echo Series? 

Composed of shots taken from different vantage points, and by using specific lights and speeds, the Echo Series explores photography’s potential to create illusion. The ambiguity of these images places the viewer in a position of not exactly comprehending what they’re perceiving. Although the images seemingly evoke contemporary digital renderings, or the use of algorithms and visual effects, they are produced without any manipulation. They may imply synthetic and imaginary worlds but in fact just mirror the reality of our immediate surroundings. The images are the result of random movement within the urban grid. With certain camera settings, this opens up a parallel reality that only the camera, and not the human eye, can detect.

Melding the scale, mass, and permanence of architecture into the impermanence of liquidity, the Echos Series is a meditation on time and aims to bridge the conceptual and sensual investigation of Modernity with the current state of our cities.

Echos is also a personal homage to the camera that captures foremost a painterly abstraction of architectural structures, or the magical beauty of a sparkling street light after the rain. But to me it also reveals an urgency to continue to examine further how we can revive the historical layers of our landscape, bringing them back to life with the promise of a new future.

How would you describe your work?

Abstract Architecture 

How has the pandemic influenced your work? 

In Berlin, we were not required to stay home during the pandemic which allowed me to spent more time in my studio and experiment.