Los Angeles-based conceptual artist Chris Engman creates illusory installations where scenic landscapes made from myriad large-scale photographs collide with man-made interiors.
In Engman’s works, layered prints of oceans, forests and deserts infiltrate indoor spaces such as studios, corridors and rooms in buildings. The viewer must carefully study each piece, as we are unconvinced of the artwork’s source of origin—is it a photograph, or a real three-dimensional landscape? In the artwork ‘Equivalence’, a cloudscape blends with the interior of a study, creating a space that is both celestial and domestic. In ‘Landscape For Quentin’, cascading desert dunes morph into corridors—leading to rooms in seemingly other dimensions. The subject of Engman’s work is the tension between illusion and materiality, which he asserts is intrinsic to the medium of photography. In ‘Refuge’, the visual of the woods was printed onto approximately 150 pieces of paper, and then cut in sections and affixed to walls within the space. Engman explains how he uses photographs within photographs to create the installations: “The room itself was then photographed and the resulting image printed onto a single sheet of photo paper”, he explains. Yet the purpose behind Engman’s art is more serious than just optical deception: “Two of our most basic and deep-rooted needs are for opportunity and shelter”, he writes. “We are attracted to those landscapes or environments that would seem to afford both. This plays a role, if an unconscious one, in our experience of the environment and in our aesthetics.”
‘Containment’ by Chris Engman, images © Tony Walsh