While Untitled and Drawings may differ visually and in content, both challenge customary expectations of photography. They function in a singular manner, interacting with conceptions of photography and photographic processes.
These bodies of work depict landscapes that hover between emerging and being, the seen and the subliminal. Unlike traditional landscape images, they are landscape photographs that lack the landscape. The images present an uncertain plane in which spatiality is not easily discerned. They challenge the viewer to question what it is they can actually see in the photograph. Instead of using a full palette of grays to become a “photograph,” through the use of white space and black space, they resist becoming, tempting the viewer to associate what little is discernable – scatterings of trees, people, birds – or pieces of a building, a road, a wall – with pencil drawings or charcoal sketches.
The series Untitled engages the viewer in emotional opposition. They attract the viewer yet simultaneously repel them. They have a feeling of danger yet offer a beacon. They are about hiding yet also about being exposed. An intrinsic narrative exists within each separate photograph, but there is no solid narrative between the images. In the series Drawings, the generic situations suggest a narrative at work. The white space acts as a stage and the viewer seeks what is “off screen” – the unstated actions that could tie the images together. The effort to create and seek narrative is natural, the state of non-narrative becomes both a site for fear and exploration, asking us where our expectations lie, how we use narrative, and the way in which photography and the photographic has become intrinsic to this process. It is this play of the visual and its association/use as narrative space that ultimately informs the work.
-Noelle Tan, 2004
Born in the Philippines in 1969, Noelle Tan currently works and lives in Washington, DC. She earned her BFA from New York University and her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. Ms. Tan has shown her work in Boston, LA, NYC, Austin, at venues including the Headlands Center for the Arts in San Francisco, the Asian American Arts Center in NYC, Creative Arts Agency in Beverly Hills, Chambers Fine Art in NYC, and Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal, also in NYC. Noelle was an Artist-in-Residence in the Center for Photography’s annual residency program in the summer of 2003.