Neeta Madahar’s beautiful, seductive works merge nature and artifice, immersing the viewer in dreamlike imagery that teases out the innate strangeness in commonplace situations.
Neeta Madahar’s project Flora was shown for the first time as part of this exhibition. Flora is a series of highly conceptual and stylised images exploring the dynamics of portraiture within the contexts of femininity, beauty and nature.
Flora evokes the style of Hollywood glamour photography from the 1930s–50s and draws inspiration from the society photographs of Cecil Beaton and Madame Yevonde. Madahar collaborated with a number of friends to create painstakingly staged and detailed photographs that feature her subjects alongside plants and flowers whose names have been adopted as women’s, such as Holly and Jasmine.
Each distinctive, ultra-stylised image investigates notions of drama, reality, allure and female representation, and is underpinned by Madahar’s subjective relationship with the models. Over weeks and months Madahar spent time with each sitter, discussing how they would be photographed, from the look of the clothes, hair and makeup to the lighting and posture, along with the individual, often very personal, ideas they wished to portray within the finished works.
Ten new photographs from Flora were displayed alongside a selection from the artist’s earlier works: Sustenance (2003), Falling (video and photographs, 2005), Cosmoses (2006–07) and Solstice (video, 2008).
While studying in the USA, Madahar spent 18 months recording the habits of birds that fed on the balcony of her apartment in Framingham, Massachusetts. The photographs have a hyperreal quality, created using a large-format view camera and studio flash lighting.
Madahar documented the birds’ behavior to explore issues of home, belonging and migration.
Including both still and moving images of clusters of sycamore seeds falling through the air, these works are a wholly artificial representation of a naturally occurring event. They evocatively refer to the ways in which our memories can become dreamlike in their recollection.
Cosmoses consists of a series of unique photograms—images made without a camera and by the action of light on an object and photographic paper alone.
Madahar painstakingly folded each ‘flower’ from paper, before scattering the finished origami objects across the photographic paper in the darkroom. These photograms continue the artist’s interests in the tensions between nature and artifice.
Filmed using time-lapse still photographs, Solstice condenses the summer and winter solstices from 24 hours into 24 minutes. Shot in rural Wiltshire in December 2006 and June 2007, the completed films are made up of 36,000 stills each, unfolding in a mesmerising, immersive installation.
Solstice is accompanied by an orchestral soundtrack, specially composed by Miguel d’Oliveira and performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
In her ongoing series Flora, Madahar—in collaboration with her sitters—creates sets within which she then stages their portraits.
These highly stylised images explore the dynamics of portraiture in the context of femininity, beauty, artifice and nature.
Neeta Madahar was born in London in 1966. In 2000 she was awarded a full graduate scholarship to study a three-year Master of Fine Art degree at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts. She came to prominence in the photography world in 2004 when Sustenance was selected by Martin Parr for the Recontres d’Arles Photography Festival in Arles, France.