For the past twenty years, contemporary artist Chris Engman has investigated ideas of misperception, labor, and the human condition. Concentrating on the theoretical and mechanical use of photography, Engman's practice highlights the medium's ability and inability to capture truth. He views his work in conversation with existing photographs and photographic theory, focusing on emerging questions centered around memory, time, and subjectivity. Utilizing ideas from the Land Art and Conceptual Art movements, Engman considers himself a photographer, sculptor, and installation artist whose work “serves both the functions of photographic results and of the documentation of a process.”
Land and Image: Chris Engman is a twenty-year survey of the artist’s work spanning from the early 2000s to 2022. After years of documenting records of actions, elaborate processes, landscapes, installations, and sculptures, Engman has become a master of Trompe-l'œil (or deceiving the eye), an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create an optical illusion. Engman's photography, at first glance, appears normal, but when given a second look, viewers can catch on to the delusion and begin to question the perceived image.
The performative photographs included in this exhibition are the result of Engman’s intensive work to construct large-scale sculptural objects that are strategically placed, observed, and photographed in natural landscapes. The end results of Engman’s work are wonderfully staged, often viewers are unaware of the extensive amount of labor and thought put into his work. Engman does this by spending a tremendous amount of time setting the stage for his photographs, often camping at the chosen site, moving objects in and around the frame of his lens while observing shadow and light as they move with the sun. Discussing the intensity of his process Engman states, “I seem to be fixated on the notion of labor . . .To this end, my works tend to be labor-intensive and I tend to want to leave evidence of that labor in my photographs as if to justify them.”
Engman's more recent works transport natural landscapes such as waterfalls, caves, and desert scapes into interior spaces. Through large-scale projections, Engman challenges the idea that photography can not be entered. Keeping this in mind Engman has designed immersive installations like his latest piece, A Mountain on a Treetop, so that viewers can physically enter the photographed landscape. Upon entering the installation viewers experience the distortion of the stretched image, revealing that the initial projected image is a perspective illusion. In this way, Engman’s practice is a reflection on human perception and the mechanical practice of photography.
View Lancaster Museum of Art & History