The 19th in our series of exhibition 'pairings' presented a large, previously unseen photograph from Ori Gersht's 'Cypress' series, alongside a tiny landscape painting on copper by Flemish master Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625).
Born in Tel-Aviv, Israel in 1967, Ori Gersht now lives and works in London. He studied photography at University of Westminster, and the Royal College of Art, London and has since become one of the most significant photographers and film-makers of his generation. Gersht observes the boundaries between man and nature, focusing his lens on the liminal territory where the two meet and often clash. The image in this exhibition comes from a series made 3 years ago in Israel's Negev desert. Planted by the Israelis in their desire to "bloom the desert", Cypress trees were introduced into this harsh and alien terrain only to suffer a lack of water, the severe climate hampering their growth and making the trees stunted and weak. Fixed by more than an hour's exposure, these two hazy figures hover like melancholy ghosts, translucent monuments to human history, and the vain attempts of humanity to impose itself on nature.
Whilst socio-political concerns underpin much of Gersht's work, his formal interests in composition, scale and detail are what conspire to create consistently powerful and often very beautiful images. He has an abiding fascination with Old Master paintings, and in choosing to show alongside Brueghel's astoundingly intricate, postcard-sized oil on copper, he initiates a fascinating dialogue about the possibilities of scale and detail.