miércoles, 10 de septiembre de 2008

FOREST, SILVER HALIDE, FORMICA AND A GREAT WALL: Jesús Jáuregui carries through Large Format to its upmost

Text and Photos: Javier Izquierdo Vidal.

Published in Film und Foto Magazine Number 5 July 2008

At full daylight, Jesús Jáuregui´s exotic work lies imposing and visible from a distance of many hundreds of metres. The photographic quality of the images engraved by means of pigmented inks on formica is extraordinary and increases as one progressively approaches to the huge wall.

That´d be coming to the point in a nutshell. Jesús Jáuregui has conveyed the forest to the wall by imprinting silver halides on formica.

He´s just come to pick me up by car at our rendezvous spot located at Lezama station in Bilbao, where we´d previously made the appointment. Both of us are being punctual. We´ve spoken twice before in order to arrange our date.

He´s going to show me something which has turned me somewhat puzzled. We get on being acquainted each other while we make our way to the Industrial Park Boroa encompassing a large number of half built buildings. It will hold concerns devoted to new technologies and different services.

It isn´t raining, but it seem that it´s gonna do it soon. There´re large black storm clouds, as if it were any January day at five o´clock in the afternoon, albeit we´re at the end of May.

We go on our march and after an easy bend, we stay on the straight and narrow until reaching a little drop.

In front of us, from the wan grey, a black mass streaked with clear yarn springs up on the left. At first sight it seems to be a colossal code bar embedded among pavillions and buildings under construction. A low key high contrast prism on a magma of blended grays. We stop by the road edge and get off the car.

The landscape is gorgeous. The code bar is steadfastly becoming into tree trunks, branches, leaves, lights and shadows featuring a bias to be anchored on the floor and on the other hand hurl themselves at the clouds not bursting with rain but threatening a great deal.

Right away, a squashed light just above it seems to want to spread out, and the silver halides forest stamped on formica reveals gaiety increasing its glitter.

The light greys get more significance while clouds win and close the focus of the sun, which beats a retreat. The forest turns darkling and tones readjust again in the same way as previously.

I´m deeply amazed, thinking about what´ll happen with an open blue sky and when the works come to an end (with green lawn surrounding the roots of the forest we´re heading for by skirting the slope), when there´s a different light being subject to the day hours.

The artist Jesús Jáuregui in his atelier, with a formica panel on which through an ultramodern technique has been engraved a photograph showing branches and leaves of oaks and eucalypti from a 4 x 5 ´ (10 x 12 cm) large format plated digitized with a professional drum scanner.

While we arrive at the esplanade and begin approaching this weird work of art, the logical thing would be to start seeing a built-in blurredness regarding the closeness of something thought from the onset to be watched from a much further distance.

But exactly the opposite happens: five or six meters from the façade measuring about 15 metres high and 30 metres wide, the acutance increases. It´s a huge work of art, made up with three hundred and sixty four 3 m high x 1´30 m wide formica planks weighing 45 kg each.

There are no halos, apparent grain or artifacts revealing that we are in front of a gigantic enlargement. The photographic quality is utterly impressive and overwhelming, along with the realism proving to be striking, with wrinkled oak barks counterpoising and conveying texture to flaying eucalypti resembling flat skin snakes, branches, leaves and backlighted areas in smooth bokehs and so forth.

Jesús tells me how it is feasible. He needed some months of research till he found the fitting working method: a huge black and white forest based on a unique monochrome mural composition implemented using large format chemical plates and the most up-to-date printing technologies enabling to achieve a gorgeous quality in the gray scale along with rather deep matte finished blacks, which brings forth a full-grown masterpiece.

It´s a kind of great mural sculpture made with formica planks made by a core of kraft paper leaves soaked in thermostable resins and coated with a very thin layer of decorative paper. The surface paper is saturated with high resistance resins and protected by a film acting as an ultraviolet rays barrier avoiding the black and white tones spoiling. This is a fairly lasting material, fireproof, and the cleaning of any possible graffiti is very easy, apart from requiring very little maintenance.

He was proposed the draft by Celulosas Vascas firm, in whose environs we´re. They wanted a forest for the frontage and he has built it, exposing plenty of 4 x 5 ´ large format plates of chemical film Kodak T-MAX 100, Fuji Velvia 50 and Fuji Provia 100 with a Cambo camera attached to Schneider-Kreuznach Super-Angulon XL 90 mm f/5.6 lens (featuring an angle coverage of 110º) and Apo-Symmar-L 150 mm f/5.6 Copal lens (sporting an angle coverage of 75º) whilst visiting different ancient forests.

Following this, he digitizes each of the 4 x 5´ (10 x 12 cm ) large format plates in a professional drum scanner so as to get 16-bit Adobe RGB TIFF archives at 4000 ppi between 500 and 1700 MB (the 4 x 5 ´ plates) and between 300 and 460 MB (the medium format 6 x 6 cm slides made with his Hasselblad), always in search after the greatest possible quality in king sizes.

With all of this brutal information managed by a very powerful computer, Jesús Jáuregui sketches a vision of his own elaborated with fragments of the taken pictures.

The colour stuff transferred to grey scale merges with the purely monochrome, and everything is shaped into this mamoth photograph.

The next step is panelling the image in order to print it on a paper able to be integrated in formica and based on solvent inks resistant to ultraviolet rays and all kind of climatology.

It´s a very interesting breakthrough and fairly up-to-date technology to imprint photographs alike, both because of the dazzling quality attained and since it sets up a photographic prop able to endure flawlessly the harshest weather conditions ( rain, snow, frosts, hailstorm, thaw, high levels of humidity, pollution, strong winds, scorching heat, and so on, together with outstanding antiscratching and isolating properties ) for many decades.

Fragment of an area of the low part lit at night by artificial light. The experienced feelings are indescribable, and incredibly, in spite of the very close distance, the quality of the photograph on formica and the texture and realism of everything is so big that it seems that we´re in the middle of an actual forest, undergoing a very strong wish to touch the leaves and branches, though knowing that it is a flat wall.

Jesús Jáuregui hasn´t been able to find a suitable title to its creation (whose appearance changes according to the hours of the day and its respective luminosity conditions) and the adjacent works don´t allow to see the forest in all its radiancy, but it is already integrating itself into a land art format; a sort of land foto would be more precise.

We bend the corner to take a look at the other building front, almost double long and whose end makes up the store vehicle entrance. The light isn´t evidently the best possible, but we make some photographs and get on the car to go to the studio which Jesús has in the middle of the Santutxu neighbourhood in Bilbao.

The oddest thing is that Jesús Jáuregui is not a photographer. He´s essentially an sculptor, a Jorge Oteiza´s pupil and friend, and also an admirer of Remigio Mendiburu and Nestor Basterretxea, the great Basque sculptors of the iron.

Jesús Jáuregui has been author of a consistent sculptural work in México (where he lived for 17 years), Buenos Aires and Spain, also excelling as a painter and engraver.

From this latter side departures his great interest in photography, fostered by some Mexican photographers, friends of his. Until four years ago, he hadn´t seen through it within his creative momentum.

Unlike artists of other disciplines on tackling the photographic topics, Jesús Jáuregui approaches anxiously and humbly alike. He doesn´t even think of taking out a four megapixel mobile phone and making clicks which after being made by a ´creator´ should be considered photographs soaked with an artistic patina.

He gets into the large format as a token of respect to the photographic means.

First and foremost he wishes to make a report on the Bilbao Nervión River Estuary, titled Banks of Light and Shadow, a seminal wall painting in which panoramic formats with other ones more squared merge. Sporting substantial dimensions, the forty pictures reveal a highly intuitive and disciplined sight, with a spotless grasp of the space and its voids.

With the same negative size as in the forest, imprinted with carbon pigments inside his own studio, helped by one of his Mexican friends deft on these subjects. Obtaining an extraordinary photographic quality on paper.

The author and his work. Jesús Jáuregui poses by his work just before his great creation, lit for the time being through artificial lights. Impressive the level of detail and realism in the trees, branches and leaves engraved on the formica departing from pictures made with large format 4 x 5´ plates digitized by means of professional drum scanner and transferred through a very special ink engraving system on the quoted stuff.

Taking profit from his self sterness as an engraver ( a craft which he regretfully comments that is disappearing, its wisdom being lost ). Jesús Jáuregui wants absolute quality and he manages to accomplish it by dint of using Large Format chemical emulsion plates.

The pith of his very uncommon technique relies on the tremendous resolving power, sharpness and fabulous tonal range boasted by the photographic entropy attained by the chemical films in large ormat and even by the medium format he also uses with a 6 x 6 cm Hasselblad and a Carl Zeiss Planar 80 mm f/2.8 lens.

The artist and main character of this essay has become a knowledgeable expert on every phase enabling him to achieve these hugely high photographic quality on formica: from the act of capturing the image with his large format camera, metering light as thoroughly as possible up to the digitization of the 4 x 5´ plates at a huge resolution in a professional drum scanner, the treatment of the images with his powerful high end Macintosh computer until rendering them exactly in the way he wants them and the great number of tests on paper he makes by means of his two high end Epson Stylus Pro plotters featuring an exclusive technology with cartridges of Ultrachrome K3 pigmented inks delivering a printing resolution of 2880 dpi and 3,5 picolitres Epson Ultra Micro Dot, also sporting three levels of blacks so as to reproduce the most subtle details of lights and shadows, with a superb global balance of greys and tonal range for monochrome impression, together with a more than remarkable density of the black.

Therefore, Jesús Jáuregui has got the hang of the whole system and each of its stages, exerting a great control on the gradations of both gray scales and netral tones, though he keeps on investigating and making a lot of tests on paper before turning his projects into reality.

Pushing forward a step in his active artistic poetics, on one hand he seeks to increase his technical knowledge as to the development of the chemical films and on the other hand he strives after starting a new complementary artistic way pondering over man as an epicenter of his photograph.

When nightfall comes and the artificial lights illuminate the great wall, the impressive work acquires an utterly different appearance, both grandiose and frightening, related to nature strength at its deepest roots. It is at these moments when the aspect of this formidable creation outstandingly resembles the famous monolith of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey directed by Stanley Kubrick.

He´s interested in fathoming the photograph as an unrestricted powerful fact in itself, infused with all of its creative strength and poetry art, but understanding that it is not the only means of artistic expression varnishing a more or less lucky speech.

From photography, with its whole aftermath. At the gigantic sizes through which Jesús Jáuregui depicts his ideas, you need the maximum feasible weight of TIFF digital archive and the astounding quality of image you attain with large format chemical emulsions.

He feels that nowadays the artistic creation is frequently somewhat doped and vulgarized, more often than not being brought to life touristic spaces where to look at any work and which fulfil a mission of certain submission to the artist, in such a way that he is tamed and weakened, to the discernment of critics and artistic comissars.

This is a very usual context where regrettably the author is chasing after a cheque rather than an artistic masterpiece.

On getting dark, some lighting test are going to be carried out with some little electric light bulbs being a part of the lawn pavement which will surround the forest, so we leave the atelier and come back to the colossal work of art location.

Several faint pinkish reflections of a sunset, finally struggling to jut out, tone the crowns of the trees in a dim magenta. With this low light sight is pastelized.

All of a sudden, the electric light bulbs are switched on and contrast roars on the wall forest. The sharpness and power of resolution is almost painful in this motionless and dumb dreadful photographic landscape, where leaves do rustle.

We´re at a very short distance and if seems as if the work had life, a full-fledged living forest, continuously terrifying. Such is the quality and realism of this truly incredible work of art performed on formica attached to a very big 15 m high x 30 m wide wall to which the dusk and the sparkling of artificial lights turn into a vital and awesome being, intimately linked to the most ancestral nature ........

Jesús Jáuregui inside his studio, looking through some test strips on paper made with his king size Epson Stylus Pro printer and pigmented inks cartridges Ultrachrome K3, from large format 4 x 5´ (10 x 12) plates digitized with a professional drum scanner.
On the other hand, since his coming back to Basque Country in 1995, Jesús Jáuregui has fulfilled different exhibitions in Bilbao, Madrid, Londres and Munich, as well as making monumental sculptures both for public areas and all sorts of firms in the Basque Country.

A place absolutely deserving a visit which will bring along an indelible remembrance on those who ever watch live on the spot this unutterable photographic and architectonic work of art.

Photographs made with black & white film
Rollei SUPERPAN 200 rated at ISO 400
and developed with Argenti ULTRA-ISO