"Alyssa Warren's practice encompasses photography, collage and printmaking. Her abstract works have the resonant quality of an after-image, combining forms, shadows and marks to appear spectral and visually insistent. Employing some of the earliest and most direct mechanisms for image-making – such as pinhole cameras and traditional methods of printmaking – she creates works of quiet mnemonic intensity.
Warren's black and white photography is executed using a variety of handmade pinhole cameras constructed in simple materials such as wood or cardboard. Using the camera obscura effect – a natural process whereby the image is recorded directly onto its ground – and matt fibre-based paper, they have a haunting presence, where image and support have become one textural object. Taking extreme close-ups of everyday objects, often clear bottles or glass organised into a still-life, the resultant images seem to record particularly intense visual experiences, displaying a treatment of light and shadow that relates more closely to painting, with explosive streaks, blurred areas and concentrations of rich, inky pigment. Some photographs recognisably depict their original subject matter, as in the distorted visions of surrounding architectural features and urban landscapes, while others have been manipulated, sometimes bleached out and altered to the point of pure abstraction. In these latter works, the image appears driven by a centrifugal compositional force, as if energy is being dissipated across the image from the centre of the paper itself. In other works, surface details such as ripples or bubbles recall organic forms, like tiny eggs or eyes, for example, or equally, like droplets of water, hovering and connecting across the image in perpetual, restless movement. In others, a single circular form centres the composition like an eye, a vortex that invokes a powerful ocular presence.
Similar forms are explored throughout Warren's large-scale collages and monotypes, which often employ a pure, ultramarine ink in different levels of intensity. In the collages, Warren adheres and overlays circular or undulating forms onto the work's surface, suggesting amoebic duplication or cellular activity. Reminiscent of spreading organisms, such as algae blooming on water, they sit against a richly coloured, solid background, created through a labour-intensive process whereby layer upon layer of pure pigment is rolled onto un-etched plates and printed onto thick, wet paper. This time-consuming process results in a highly textured background which appears to integrate and fuse with the forms adhered on top, allowing the collages to take on a three-dimensional aspect, resting somewhere between a wall-based image and sculptural relief. In some works, explosions of surface detail and tiny patches of scattered white light are created through the delicate manipulation of ink, either by allowing turpentine to drip, bleed or disintegrate into the wet ink over the course of many hours, or removed with a variety of spatulas in swift, gestural movements.
In her new photo etchings, which combine printmaking and photographic techniques as well as digital and analogue means, expressive and dynamic black and white compositions relate closely to early experimental photography. Created by scanning tiny details from pinhole photographs, rephotographing them onto film and then exposing the images onto solar plates, they invoke a sense of compression and of intense, penetrating magnification; explorations of light and shadow seen through the lens of a microscope or x-ray machine."
- Alexandra Bradley
Based in East London, I work across several media, including fiction, photography, printmaking and collage. My first novel, a coming-of-age story about a photographer, was published in April, 2017, by Black and White publishing. Prior to that, I completed a BA in English in Santa Barbara, California, and an MA in English in Sydney, Australia. I taught creative writing and modern British literature at the Universidad San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador, and served as a contributing editor to Surface magazine, covering art, design and fashion.