By Betty Milonas
Simon Obarzanek’s solo exhibition at Karen Woodbury Gallery in Melbourne presents a series of moving images, titled “Video Portraits”. Each image draws a close inspection of the human form by studying the mysterious elements of facial expression and movement that are shaped by our inner and external world.
Melbourne-based artist, Obarzanek has created a number of photographic series over the last decade with a particular focus of the human form. Obarzanek’s visual narratives reference the collective experience of human behavior, noting the manifestation and perception of various emotions and thoughts. Evidently, “Video Portraits” draws upon our own human experiences and human behavior by capturing a personal narrative of six different characters. Each video is filmed against a dark background with a subtle and soft light focusing on the face, depicting deep emotions.
Looking at Video portrait #6 (Ben) we absorb and examine Ben’s varied emotions of loneliness and distress as he stares directly into the camera. Throughout the 15 minute video Ben moves slowly and subtly, staring into the camera prompting us to feel and ponder his feelings and thoughts. Our attention traces the delicate details of Ben’s facial expression and his eyes as we watch him tackle his emotional barriers. The power of silence and visuals play a critical role in each moving image as we study human behaviour within a darkly lit gallery space. There is no need for music or spoken word, instead the eyes and facial expression shape the narrative.
Adjacent to Video portrait #6 (Ben), I am particularly drawn to the powerful Video portrait #3 (Kim) that evokes a strong physical presence and emotional intensity in this short video clip (2 min 23 sec). The video portrays a powerful message to the viewer, in turn, reflecting upon our own personal experiences on an unconscious and conscious level. The compositional structure and dark lighting of Kim’s video allows his eyes to create extra depth and intensity as he invites the viewer to follow his movements. Our gaze becomes transfixed on the dark background and the repetitive movements performed by Kim. Thus, Obarzanek’s close examination of human form communicates the common human experiences we encounter ranging from sadness, loneliness, passion to peace.
Each person’s personality and deep thought is captured on video, underlying the complexities of human experience and human behaviour. The videos are captivating, adding a sense of mystery to the scientific elements of understanding human behaviour from an introspective and artistic manner. Looking within ourselves we share a visual memory and collective conscious of the times we felt sad, lonely, isolated or calm.
Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
Dates: 14 May – 11 June 2016