Nico Krijno’s Synonym Study

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Image: Nico Krijno

‘How does an artist expand one of the great traditional art forms, the still life, into new territory?’ Roelof Petrus van Wyk asks at the beginning of his essay in Nico Krijno’s artist book, Synonym Study. It’s a pertinent question in the image-saturated, internet-led culture we find ourselves in. In recent years, the penchant for making brightly coloured still life photographs, which often document banal or ‘everyday’ objects, has exploded in popularity. So what makes a difference? Krijno, Petrus van Wyk suggests, may be some way to finding the answer.

Krijno is one of those artists that is loved by, and loves, the internet. His website is entitled NICO KRIJNO ON THE INTERNET and his Tumblr and Instagram sites show a consistent and considered engagement with the medium. Through daily recordings and interactions online, Krijno has developed a distinct visual language for his first self-published photobook.

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Image: Nico Krijno

The title’s reference to language helps us read Krijno’s photographs differently from the outset. In the form of synonyms, the images correspond with each other: a series of visual conversations appear throughout the book in small waves, revealing myriad ways of looking at the same photograph. But if there are synonyms, then there are conundrums too, along with alliteration and assonance. The book, playing with these approaches to language, becomes something different each time we look.

Synonym Study is as much about deconstruction as it is construction – Krijno is in a constant process of play. Stacking, stretching, pulling and pressing, Krijno uses and reuses, testing the limits of things. He appears to play games within the pages, piling bottles or bricks as high as they can go. These images of small triumphs are satisfying to consume, though almost unbearable at times; like watching a youtube video you know will result in a person’s fall, or clumsy yet humorous mistake.

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Image: Nico Krijno

Materials are tangible and constructions are temporary here; his works are ephemeral gestures, unconcerned with making lasting sculptures. They are makeshift and constructed to be photographed, enduring through the images themselves. Though somewhat absurd, these are situations that we recognise and know in our own personal and infinite variations, equipping us with the knowledge that the things we are witnessing can’t stay this way for long. They are inconvenient, awkward, they utilise things that will be needed elsewhere eventually. Tires are piled against a garage door, a desk fan is wrapped in a plastic bag. The book is also about time: a painted palm leaf will wither before too long, a ruler bends close to snapping, a chair burns in a parking lot.

There are people, too. Bodies contort and reemerge throughout the pages, though we don’t learn much about them in the photographs. Perhaps more so, we learn about the photographer. People are merely props, shapes and figures for other things. Everything is a material to be used; lines, shadows, rings, spheres and cubes recur throughout the book. The photographs, once taken, are collaged, enhanced, reconfigured, photoshopped and parts are erased or enlarged.

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Image: Nico Krijno

Krijno is part of a new school of contemporary still life image-makers whose work finds an outlet – and a critical forum – online (others include Johan Rosenmunthe, Thomas Albdorf and Peter Puklus). The works these artists produce reveal a variety of aesthetics, but they are also about the individuality of research, process and influences. The photobooks they make are text books; anthologies of looking, inventories of things to see.

The specific references in Synonym Study are subtle, clever and abundant, the images will evoke different things and Krijno, undefinable, will be something different to each viewer. He’s inspired by structures. He’s inspired by sixties performance art. He’s a contemporary Moholy-Nagy. Nico Krijno is a constructivist. Nico Krijno is a formalist.

Joanna Cresswell

Having been shortlisted for the Paris Photo First Book Prize in 2014, Krijno went on to make a small run of Synonym Study, and it hasn’t deviated much from its original dummy. A lovely object filled with pictures printed on different papers, matte and glossy in good balance. An incredibly pleasing visual index of the images sits in an insert towards the back. The book is printed in a limited edition of just one hundred copies, each one signed by the author with a print by Krijno loosely placed somewhere between the pages.

Limited copies are available from our bookshop and online here.

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