Remnant Photography Exhibition by Photographer Isamu Sawa

"Look closely in the densely layered chaos of a time-worn craftsman’s workbench and you’ll find worlds within worlds. Layers of accumulated paint residue, dyes, glues and tool-marks overlap, forming complex and random patterns of colours, shapes and forms. Viewed in macro detail these remnants take on a new form, akin to abstract art or aerial landscape photography."

Remnant is a photographic exploration of a picture framer’s workbench: a surface stained and layered over several years with paints, glues and dyes. Isamu Sawa’s follow-up to his highly successful ‘Without Water’ botanical series in 2015 employs similar extreme close-up photographic techniques, but moves in deeper to explore the artist’s fascination with macro photography, scale,
abstract art and aerial landscapes.

Sawa discovered his subject—a 1.2m by 2.4m workbench—at Abbotsford custom picture framing business Arten Framing, in 2017. The densely layered tableau of stains, scrapes, marks and patterns
that had built up over many years immediately caught his eye. In a way, they were the inverse images of countless other artworks: remnants of pictures carefully mounted, framed and sent off again
into the world. But they were also beautiful, in their own right.

Intrigued, Sawa took the bench back to his studio in Collingwood. There, he spent months hovering over the surface looking straight down, viewing the surface as if it were a vast aerial landscape;
composing, cropping and magnifying tiny, passport photograph-sized sections that caught his eye. The process not only revealed the score-marked bench-top in all its beautiful, textural detail, but
resulted in a series of large, captivating prints that appear more like abstract paintings or aerial landscapes than incidental paint stains.

"I began seeing things in the bench," says Sawa. "By going in close and blowing up different sections I discovered arctic coastlines, vast mountain ranges, even cave paintings—it was very exciting. Sometimes it felt like satellite imagery from another planet or abstract art."

Just as the artist immersed himself in the imaginary worlds he created, Sawa invites the viewer to lose themselves in the images, too. "As kids we used to stare up at the sky and find shapes in the
clouds. These images are a bit like that—people see different things but they always see something. I love that about them."

Remnant is a series of 10 large, exquisitely detailed, archival pigment ink prints on 100% cotton rag paper, each limited to eight editions.

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