Bill Henson – Paris Opera
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In the early 1990’s Bill Henson was commissioned by the Paris Opera to produce a series of works that were to bring the emotional effect of music into visual form. For the first time, all 50 images from the series are brought together as a delicately printed outsized monograph.
“Paris Opera is a development for Henson both in his use of colour and in the way he presents human faces in interplay through convention, the framing device, of the face intent on music: whether in appreciation or indifference, or with an inscrutable self-possession. Watching faces, lit from below, sit in half-light suggests that the only illumination comes from the stage and what these faces suggest is always a revelation of some inwardness before the other event: the musical drama unfolding in front of their eyes. The drama of portraiture in response is instead intensely dramatic and Henson has done wonders to make his camera suggest the gradations and modulations of a painterly apprehension. It is drama full of shadow and chiaroscuro, of Rembrandtian depths of brown and gold and blackest green.
"Henson is never afraid to suggest some portent just out of reach. Indeed, it plays on the possibility like a piano; that is one reason why the simulacrum of high art is so manifest in these most painterly of Henson’s pictures. They are in one-way photographic representations of the nature and effect of art, their occasion is how a face may look as it listens, but they are in a fuller sense, attempts to instantiate the idea of art, that is to say the idea of the experience of art, without any recourse to the literary or intertextual obviousness.