Through photographs, Alan Chadwick captures the oft-ignored beauty of our land
There are certain things not many are likely to pay attention to. A rusty nail long embedded into a piece of wood, for instance. Or a segment of concrete that bears the marks of time and tyres past. Or even a sheet of plastic lying around a construction site. All in such close-up to lend them a sort of abstractness far removed from the background they are found in.
Alan Chadwick, whose photographs and paintings are currently on display at the American Center, aptly calls his series of photographs ‘Standing' – the subjects are most likely to escape one's attention unless one stops and looks closer, and the objects' standing in the photographer's eye might be higher than their standing in relation to their natural surroundings, he explains.
“I like the idea of a simple subject and endowing it with a sense of place and time. There is no dogma, no pre-conceived ideas of right and wrong. It should be open to interpretation,” he explains.
Chadwick has spent three years in Delhi now, where he works with the Facilities Management section of the U.S. Embassy here. Born in Dublin, Ireland, he has spent the subsequent years in Canada, France (where he met his wife), USA and Italy.
Chadwick has a firm grounding in the arts, spending a year at the National College of Art in Dublin and the Camondo School of Design in Paris. “I've always been interested in arts in general. This (he points to the walls) is my artistic outlet,” he says. “The photographs have been inspired by my painting and what I've seen around India; they've kind of fed off each other.”
The photographs, mostly taken in Delhi, have all been taken on walks, “wandering around.”
“Sometimes you have to look deeper,” says the artiste. “It doesn't always jump out at you. This is an attempt to come to terms with that, know the city better, get off the normal path, both literally and figuratively. I tend to do that by getting close to things.”
Alan Chadwick's camera is simple – a 10 megapixel Canon digital camera that he pulls out from his pocket. “I had a better camera before this, a slightly bigger one. But it would always end up being in my bag,” he explains.
In India, Chadwick has travelled to Goa, Kerala and Varanasi. Varanasi he calls the highlight of his trip and, “from a photographic point of view”, a first for him. “I came back with a thousand photos,” he recalls. “I thought when I would come back I would throw 900 and stick with 100.” He couldn't throw even one. “Easily the most visually fascinating city in India,” he says. “No matter where you put your camera, there's a good shot.”
India, in general too, is a steady source of subject matter. “Back home, I couldn't have found these images. In India, people hold on to things.”
His series of paintings on wood, ‘Scratched', is also on display alongside the photographs. “It's quite a physical process for me. Doing this is not quiet, not sedate. I'm looking for spontaneity in what I do. Very often it involves closing your eyes and hoping for the best when you're painting,” he smiles. “Every painting is not going to be a success or perfect. But when you get close to it it's a wonderful feeling.”
Coming to ‘Standing', he points out to the close-up shot of the rusty nail. The background you find hard to decipher.
“It's an old painter's bamboo step ladder, with a nail sticking out. When you get closer you see a riot of texture and colour,” Chadwick observes. “There's an element of decay in all the pieces. The way materials evolve… I find that fascinating.”