Book Review: Object Image by Sarah Tulloch
By Isabella Weiss
While the portrait as a photographic form most often attempts to capture the subjectivity of an individual, many of Sarah Tulloch’s collages in Object Image take the impersonal and vague elements of an image as their object, leaving the subject to struggle for visibility behind them. In Tulloch’s Rembrandt five fingers reach out between photographic shards, as if part of a body trying to crawl into exposure, as if trying to be seen amidst ubiquitous din. This small image of a hand is bisected and buried beneath the collage’s other fragments. It is the narrow eye of a compositional spiral, either the origin or end to its illusory motion.
The image of a human figure appears to pin this hand down with his feet, while his own facial identity is occluded by the diagonal edge of a dark, architectural fragment. These (hand and foot) are the subjects of this collage, and they fight one another for the narrow window that Tulloch has left for human subjectivity to appear. This window is buried under shards that Tulloch has cut from the backgrounds of disparate photographs. Their depictions are vague and vacuous: shadowy corners, concrete barriers, clouded skies, an ocean’s fade into grey paper. In this collage series, the contextual elements forgotten within images of the preserved are brought to the forefront. Tulloch reverses the hierarchy of representation by burying the portrait’s subject under its backdrop.
This process is clear in One Thing Over Another, in which the artist has concealed the portrait of a standing female figure behind footprint-shaped cuts of vague contextual imagery. She hangs shreds of ceilings and scaffolding on her body like ornaments, masking the depicted individual behind the spaces she inhabits, the contexts that frame her. A number of Tulloch’s collages eclipse identity in another manner: her careful blade removes the face-containing vertical crosspiece, leaving the image of a spliced entity, present, composed, and anonymous. Unknown Boy II is almost seamless. With a single, subtle cut, Tulloch strips a portrait of its identity, freeing body, clothing, and context to speak for themselves. Sarah Tulloch’s works in Object Image are meant to be read. As John Stezaker---a primary influence of Tulloch’s---defines photomontage, each element is a sign within a visual language. Object Image is an argument for the inconspicuous.