Hamiltons presents Roger Ballen’s most recent body of work The Theatre of Apparitions for the first time as a series. The series takes the reader on a journey into their subconscious. Ballen’s choice of title is to convey the theatrical mechanics in which mental forms of life – dreams, the imagination and memories – act out on stage for the psyche.
“These are spirit drawings… they are the permanent record of a bubbling up of deeper, more primal psychological realms made manifest on a surface through the interaction between a particular individual and fluid, physical materials.” --Roger Ballen.
Ballen was inspired by hand-drawn carvings he saw on blacked-out windows in an abandoned women’s prison, where a prisoner had drawn figures into the black paint leaving herself with nothing but the dim light and stark walls. This led to Ballen’s own experimentation with spray paints on glass, on which Ballen would then either draw on or remove the paint from to let light through, resulting in otherworldly, pre-historic-like cave paintings. Like the unconscious, these drawings are timeless. The black, dimensionless spaces on the glass are canvases for Ballen’s thoughts to be carved.
“The images occupy a perceptual realm – a fragmented world of part-objects where fears of annihilation and chaotic perceptions merge reality and fantasy, self and other. These silhouettes are flickering archetypes originating from the collective unconscious of human kind.” --Roger Ballen.
Born in New York 1950, Roger Ballen has been based in Johannesburg, South Africa since the early 1980’s. The photographer was originally drawn to South Africa to work as a geologist, but his enthusiasm for photography strengthened and he has now been taking photographs there for more than thirty years. Now best known for his psychologically powerful and masterfully composed images, Ballen’s first venture into photography during his college years was primarily politically and socially oriented, with a photojournalistic angle. This outlook continued into his preliminary works taken in South Africa, as seen in his book Platteland: Images from Rural South Africa (1994). With an empathetic and journalistic attitude, Ballen portrayed white people living on the margins of society in remote rural towns.
These striking works broke a lot of taboos and were met with hesitance by the public. He later found himself becoming part of a community who lived within a three-storey warehouse in Johannesburg. Inhabited by those on the fringes of society - poor workers, witchdoctors, criminals, isolated individuals and animals - Ballen built a rapport during his frequent, often daily visits, and was able to photograph and record their primitive conditions. These powerful images were published in subsequent books Shadow Chamber (2005), Boarding House (2009) and Asylum (2011).
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