One often looks at the work of Arnaud De Wolf with a sense of disbelief. Is that image of a gigantic ice cube really floating in mid-air? Is that colourful picture of an ancient forest a realistic depiction or is it a digital fabrication, a fanciful re-creation? What are we meant to discern in his cyanotype prints: random blue lines surrounding white voids of various shapes and sizes or the contours of a mountainous landscape? By means of an unconventional presentation of the photographic image, simply turning it on its side or projecting it into a corner or using outdated techniques, such as the cyanotype, De Wolf presents us with works that hover between the clarity of description and the artificiality of invention. A projected bundle of light suddenly transforms into a three-dimensional object; abstract lines coagulate into a legible form; colours become deceitfully (un)real. In each of his experiments, De Wolf is testing the boundaries of the photographic system, looking for that breaking point where the photograph loses its readability and easy accessibility. His thorough investigation of colour is particularly revealing: Fading forest makes abundantly clear that colour in photography is always artificial. The colours that we see in a photograph are technologically and culturally coded; they are made in the chemist’s lab or produced by a programmer’s algorithm. Colour is here revealed as the manipulative garb in which the photographic skeleton is dressed.
Text by Steven Humblet