After Broken Landscapes and Bird Lands, Orna Wertman is back with a new series of photomontages. In this new book, she presents a collection of her signature “montage-photography” technique, reflecting on the state of Europe in 2017.
Using her own material, photographs shot between 2013 and 2016, Wertman invents photographic sites by refining further still her technique of disassembling photographs only to reassemble them in such a way that a new photograph is created. What appears is a photograph of stark contrasts which reflect the almost palpable unease lingering in the environment in which she lives and works.
Venice, Porto, Paris, Appingedam and Haifa provide the stage for some uncanny combinations such as sandy soils set against Venetian palazzi, a large field of red flowers sitting in front of a row of burnt-down houses and high waves which out of nowhere seem to lash a placid city. This placid city is Porto, north of Lisbon where on the 1st of November 1755 an earthquake unleashed a Tsunami on the Portuguese coast bringing fires, death and destruction on a scale never seen before by contemporaries. The rest of Europe stood by in shock. By the end of that very month, galvanized by emotion, Voltaire had written a poem on this disaster. In it, he called on philosophers of optimism to come and see the horrible ruins, debris, tatters and ashes the earthquake left in its wake:
“Accourez, contemplez ces ruines affreuses, ces débris, ces lambeaux, ces cendres malheureuses.”
Wertman’s work acknowledges such disasters while refusing to let go of optimism: the sandy soils and the fields of flowers are the suggested remedies and reminders that Venice can be saved from sinking into the lagoon by supporting her with more land and that placing fields of flowers rather than planting trees within the proximity of houses reduces the possibilities for drought-induced fires to propagate.
Wertman’s work is puzzling when the eye first meets it, even eerily disorienting, gradually, though, a sense of comfort sets in: disasters may strike but the will to live is stronger still.
Volkskrant review, Paris Photo 12/11/2016
..Amidst all the recycling it is possible to give a new twist to photos of decades ago.
The Dutch artist Orna Wertman shows this in her beautiful, modest book (for sale at the book department of Paris Photo). In this book you can see her collages of photos taken out of the collection of a family member which had been rejected for the holiday album, because a finger was in front of the lens, because of unintended blur, or because they were boring or just bad pictures.
By cutting up these cast orphans from the album and assembly – sample – them in other photos, Wertman creates something truly new and intriguing. Impossible landscapes of town and pasture, winter and summer in one image. Impossible – except in Wertmans world.
Highly modern and hallucinatory. Which is again very ‘seventies’.