JP Hanekom’s art-making is conceptually driven by the process through which he creates his artworks. Indoing so, the narratives conveyed by his pieces are always informed by theprocess of   image-making. Hanekom blatantly exaggerates aspects inherent      indifferent photographic processes. He then masterfully uses these exaggerationsto frame the aesthetic and compositional strength of the works whilstunderpinning the conceptual threads that are intertwined in his works. He worksprimarily with found objects and treats ready-made images as objects that here-works through alternative photographic process to re-capture the imagery.

The artist takes the viewthat contemporary society is immersed in a mediated culture which results inimagery being viewed excessively. With viewers being bombarded with imagery,the process to create images is often overlooked. Unknowingly the viewer’sunderstanding and experience of images are informed by the photographicprocess. The process then, as much as the creator of images, has a vastinfluence on the formal qualities of an image and the construction of itsmeaning.

Hanekom’s photographicprocess incorporates a variety of photographic media and devices to createimagery. In doing so, he diverges from the contemporary notion of photographyas a solely digital medium between a camera and computer. He rather usesvarious printing techniques and devices, like a scanner and camera,  todeconstruct and then layer his imagery. This process results in differentlayers of meaning that are evoked by the content of the image as well as thenature of the photograph as an object. The deconstruction of the traditionalphotographic process transforms photography into the construction andimagination of reality itself.

The artist often uses ascanner to deconstruct the traditional concept of photography. He createsimagery by scanning found objects and ready-made photographs whilstsimultaneously manipulating the scanning-process. Hanekom draws a parallelbetween the image created by using a scanner and the photogram created in thedarkroom. Creating imagery with the scanner generates images in accordance withthe scanner’s own principles of construction. These principles manifest asspecific formal qualities within Hanekom’s work: a very shallow plane of focus,reflections of the scanner’s light, digital artefacts caused by lightrefraction and dust particles sitting right on the picture plane. Theseremnants of the scanning process that are usually eliminated from photography,becomes an important physical element crucial to Hanekom’s work.  He allows these ‘imperfections’ to i) informthe composition of his work and ii) to emphasise the picture plane. Thisresults in the images being displaced outside of its normal context asexaggerated, illusory abstraction. These abstractions are clearly understood asdifferent from the object it represents.

When Hanekom makes use of adigital camera to create artworks,    he intentionally pushes the digitaltechnology to its limits in order for the medium to become evident in his work.Hanekom manipulates the technical settings of the camera to create an exaggerategrain texture in his imagery. In addition, this process allows colouredtextured grain patterns, specifically red and green, to emerge. This colouredtexture emerges because of the physical architecture of the digital sensoritself. Thus, the digital sensor begins to create visual traces of itselfwithin the content of the image. With these remnants of the digital camera,Hanekom questions the validity of the reality represented in the content of hiswork. Concurrently, the remnants also serve to emphasise the liminal nature ofthe digital image.

Hanekom uses theabove-mentioned image-making processes to inform the conceptualisation of hisart-making. Currently, his works fall into three bodies of work: Stardust,In/Between and Memento Mori.

Stardust

“TheCosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations ofthe Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faintsensation, as if a distant memory,             of falling from a height. We know we areapproaching the greatest  of mysteries…We are a way for the cosmos to knowitself.”

-Carl Sagan (physicist);Cosmos, 1980

The Stardust series consistsof imagery of scanned found-objects presented on large-scale. This body of workintently interrogates the world around us and brings into question theconstructed way mankind sees and understands objects around them.

Hanekom keenly focusses hisgaze and abstracts what he sees when looking through the scanner. By scanningsmall objects like seeds, stones, plants and human relics, Hanekom attempts touse the aesthetic principals of the scanner to emphasise the constructed natureof the world around us. Through the process of scanning the objects, Hanekominterrogates interaction between the photographed object and photograph as anobject. The outcome is the picture plane (or surface) of the image becoming thesubject matter, rather than the object itself.

This body of works initiatesan epistemological play with the viewer where Hanekom juxtaposes thedistinction between justified belief and opinion. This play with contradictionsand epistemology is supported by the title of each image in the series wherethe title will evoke a certain idea or thing while the image is something else.

Furthermore, this body of worktaps into an astrophysical line of thought and explores the idea that all thethings we see around us were once part of a star which collapsed upon itselfand spewed its own stardust across a vast distance in a great explosion. Intime, all of this Stardust condensed and came to be everything we know and seetoday. To accentuate this theoretical line of thought, Hanekom places hisimages in a galactic black background. The dust particles that are left behindfrom the scanning-process, simulates the visuals of a starry sky. Stardust aimsto connect the mundaneness of objects with the transcendental nature of theuniverse itself. The artist tries to evoke a sense of reverence in the viewer –not only for the objects they are gazing at but also for themselves and allthings and beings in existence.

MementoMori

JP Hanekom's Memento Mori  series examines history through a voyeuristic lens. This body of work consists  of scanned and manipulated found-photographs (all of which has become publicdomain) that the artist obsessively collects. The artist interest infound-photographs lies in the process in which these photographs are found andcomes to us (whether it is passed on in families or collected from second-handshops) and the archived. During the process of archiving, the meaning of theoriginal photograph is already being questioned as it is archived with so manyuncertainties.

This body of work is mainlyconserved with the constructed manner in which history is presented and retoldby those in power. Hanekom brings the validity of history in question byreconstructing found photographs to re-tell narratives. This body of worksubverts the original meaning of the found photographs. Hanekom does this bycombining different images that are not related to each other to construct newnarratives or by experimenting with the scanning process to create faults andillusions in the original image. In doing so, he skilfully 'bends' the imageryto have new meanings.

The artist simultaneouslyinterrogates the way in which history has the potential to influence one’sidentity. Through unraveling the memories and nostalgic glimpses that theseimages evoke in the viewer, Hanekom interrogates the way in which identity isconstructed by society and cultures and passed down from one generation to thenext. Ideas and constructed identity are reformed during the process ofreconstructing the meaning embedded into the found-photographs.

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