Alejandro Guijarro (b. 1979) is a Spanish contemporary artist and a 2010 graduate of the Royal College of Art with an MFA in Photography. He lives and works between London and Madrid.
His work examines spatial relations in photographic representation, exploring what photography is still allowed and able to do, questioning its ability to refer to reality or truth. He makes contradictory and paradoxical images, where the boundaries of the photographic image break down. The images imply a tension that goes back and forth between what can be seen and what can be understood, creating a simultaneous sense of appearance and disappearance. By undermining our recognisable modes of perception, he questions the solidity of our understanding of reality and truth.
Momentum is a three-year project in which Guijarro traveled to the greatest quantum mechanics institutions of the world. Using a large-format camera, he photographed the blackboards at the institutions exactly as he found them and displayed the results in a life-size format.
Before he walks into a lecture hall, Guijarro has no idea what he will find. He begins by recording the blackboard with the minimum of interference. Once removed from their institutional beginnings, the meaning evolves: the viewer begins to appreciate the equations for their line and form, colour comes into play and the waves created by the blackboard eraser suggest a vast landscape or galactic setting. The formulas appear to illustrate the worlds of Quantum Mechanics. What began as a precise lecture, a description of the physicist’s thought process, is transformed into a canvas open to any number of possibilities. These are not works that pretend to hold any kind of objective truth. Momentum can be seen as an attempt to bridge the gap between science and art and is an exciting development in Contemporary Photography.
The title of Guijarro's second series LEAD refers to the presence of the metal in 17th and 18th century paint. This is what the X-rays show, bouncing back off lead pigments to transform the paintings from recognisable images into otherworldly scenes, as if the viewer is given access to a separate reality below the surface paint. In this body of work, Guijarro collaborated with the conservation and collections departments of The Prado Museum, Madrid, The Louvre, Paris and The National Gallery, London, scanning X-ray and ultra-violet renditions of Old Master paintings – including works by Van Dyck, Rubens, Delacroix, Goya, and Velazquez. The resulting photographs possess a graphic power strangely suggestive of the abstract expressionist New York School group, or a Gerhard Richter painting.
Guijarro has taken a scientific process used to demystify the paintings, and in doing so made them more unknowable, blurring the divisions between science and art. ‘At the heart of this series of work is a paradox: as X-rays they belong to the realm of scientific images, objective, possessing an unquestionable scientific truth. Yet, by their visual indeterminacy, they also exist in the subjective world of personal interpretation, the intuitional and emotional,’ says Guijarro. This series continues Guijarro’s investigations into the paradoxes and contradictions that emerge where the boundaries of the photographic image break down.