With Transcendental Tranquility // Oceans Project I make a contemporary reference to a romantic tradition within painting: that of the artist/photographer shunning the turbulence of the 21st century.
I retreat into the vastness of nature, distancing myself from the passage of time. I become a powerless observer of the uncontrollable elements.
In Transcendental Tranquility // Oceans Project there is only light, the horizon, and the eternally moving water; the observation is distilled to the essence.
Throughout the years Transcendental Tranquility // Oceans Project has become an essentially endless series of unique, emotionally charged images.
The sequential placement in a series and the repetitive nature of the composition - water and sky sliced in half by the horizon - evoke an almost meditative state.
The deliberately centralised placement of the horizon(tal line), which is an elemental component of the composition in many of the images, simultaneously imposes and deconstructs any form of hierarchy and
convention within photography and in the way it is viewed.
Subtle changes in colour and hue separate the sea from the sky and abstract the transition between the two. The layered, intriguing images exude a deceptive silence. They invite repeated viewing, in which the observer drowns and obtains a sense of peace that is so often lacking in our modern lives.
This is how Transcendental Tranquilty balances on the intersection of photography, painting, and film in terms of subject, layering, and development.
Alienation techniques, repetitiveness, and uncontrolled motion blur create a twilight that allows room for reflection and interpretation. Moments frozen in time, which start to move again the longer you look, as if it were a movie, creating a new reality.
In times of unbridled manipulation of images, I resolutely vow to maintain the authenticity of untouched images, which I print on Hahnemühle high-quality, extra smooth paper in order to create exceptional density, sharpness, colour saturation, and depth of colour in the images.
Interview by Sarah J LLoyd for the Hastings Independent // 06-'17
Dirk Roseport’s beelden refereren op een hedendaagse manier aan een romantische traditie binnen de schilderkunst: de kunstenaar-fotograaf keert de rug naar de woelige context van deze 21ste eeuw. Hij trekt zich terug in de uitgestrektheid van de natuur en neemt afstand van de tijd, kijkt met bewondering naar het desolate en onmeetbare van anonieme oceanen. Hij is machteloos toeschouwer van de oncontroleerbare elementen die hij documenteert. Er zijn alleen het licht, de horizon en het altijd in beweging zijnde water; de waarneming teruggebracht tot de basiselementen, gedistilleerd tot de essentie. Nu eens kalm en bevreemdend uitnodigend, une mer d’huile. Soms een rimpeling, subtiel, haast onzichtbaar. Dan weer oorverdovend en dreigend, maar altijd in beweging en steeds uniek.
Van wat doorheen de afgelopen jaren is verworden tot een in essentie eindeloze reeks van unieke, emotioneel geladen beelden, elk op zich een momentopname van een steeds wijzigend zeelandschap, toont Roseport hier slechts een kleine selectie. Het sequentiële plaatsen in een reeks en het repetitieve karakter van de beeldcompositie – water en lucht doorsneden door de horizon – nodigen uit tot een haast meditatieve beleving, verwant aan deze van de fotograaf op het moment van de opname.
Het bewust centraal plaatsen van de horizon(-tale lijn), elementair onderdeel in de compositie van vele van de getoonde beelden, structureert en bevrijdt tezelfdertijd van elke vorm van hiërarchie en conventie binnen de fotografie en het kijken daarnaar. Subtiele schakeringen in kleur en tint onderscheiden zee van lucht en andersom, en abstraheren de overgang tussen beiden. Dirk Roseport’s beelden ademen een bedrieglijke stilte, zijn gelaagd en intrigerend. Zij nodigen uit er herhaaldelijk naar te kijken, erin te verdrinken en een rust terug te vinden waaraan het ons vandaag zo vaak ontbreekt.
Transcendental Tranquility balanceert daarmee in onderwerp, gelaagdheid en uitwerking op het raakvlak tussen fotografie, schilderkunst en film. Technieken van vervreemding, repetitie en ongecontroleerde bewegingsonscherpte creëren een schemerzone die ruimte laat voor reflectie en interpretatie. Momentopnames die wanneer je er langer naar kijkt weer opstarten, als een film en een nieuwe realiteit creëren.
In tijden van ongebreidelde beeldmanipulatie zweert Roseport hardnekkig bij de authenticiteit van niet-bewerkte beelden, die hij afdrukt op hoogkwalitatief papier van Hahnemühle met een extra gladde oppervlaktetextuur voor een uitzonderlijke densiteit, beeldscherpte, kleurbereik en -diepte.
SJL: Dirk, can I ask you to say something first about what is important to you as an artist, and what you would like people to know about the work?
DR: I’m always surfing the edge between photography and painting. My concern is with creating the tableau, before which people can encounter rhythms of reality. Many people say that the work creates a space where they lose themselves, where their stress drops away and they deeply relax. And that is a strong reason why I make this work also, because this is what happens to me in the process of making it. I get up at crazy hours to do shoots, like 4am in the dark of December in bad weather, and then get totally absorbed in the process of attending to the moments where the work appears, four, six hours can go by like ten minutes in this, and I suddenly realise I've completely disappeared into the making process.
SJL: So it sounds almost similar to the centering, absorption process that happens in meditation. Why ocean though, what is water for you, and why do you think water and sky are so compelling for you as an artist?
DR: I think it's that thing that we come from the water, so somehow it’s a way to return to this deeper state. Taking everything superfluous out is for me the basis of good design, and it returns me to this simpler state in myself. So I strip the making process back to three elements; sky, water, horizon. The immensity of sky and water seems to generate states of calm where what feels troublesome in the psyche drops away. Then interestingly later, after the slowness, we start projecting thoughts onto the tableau again. Our brains seem to tolerate only so much emptiness, before they push to return us to something familiar, and this is often when the water seems to move again, especially in the “Turmoil” pieces, where the horizon is lost and there is only reflected light. It's really fascinating how many people have this response. And I’m not trying to steer anyone in any particular direction.
SJL: I looked at all the work on your website last night, and found myself thinking also of Vija Celmins, Mark Rothko and Agnes Martin, all artists very concerned with inner life. Martin especially described in detail this stripping back of self when she went to draw in the desert. She too was dealing with awe and absorption in immensity, and what happens to our sense of relationality next to that, but she chose barren, dry desert to lose herself in and a strong buddhist meditation practice. It’s interesting that for you it’s water and more an absorption in the active making.
DR: I’m not a professor so I don’t try to explain everything, but I think everyone of us is attracted to water. So sea, horizon and sky comes out of this need I have to strip things back to essential elements and return myself to a sense of origin.
SJL: And why do you choose the particular locations?
DR: I research obviously the light and whether there is a harbour or an island nearby, because then there are just too many ships. But more than that, the location is not really the point.
SJL: So you are saying that the point is more this access to inner life, to the interiority of yourself in the presence of immense landscapes.
DR: Yes and I use the camera as a completely experimental tool there, breaking every rule there is about light and exposure technicalities, because if I was concerned with all that, I would be shooting postcards. But working in this very open intuitive way, everything is unique each time, it’s a consequence of being in a living relationship with materiality, I am not trying to capture it.
SJL: Yes that’s so interesting, I can really hear that, and I see that location would be completely irrelevant if your concern is with this much more fluid and painterly territory on the edges of perception. Thank you so much for your time today Dirk.
Here's where and how it all started
The idea for the Transcendental Tranquility project was born on a rainy day on the Spanish Atlantic coast. Low light conditions, no contrast, nothing much going on and it did not look as if that was going to change soon. You could hardly distinguish the sea from the sky. It was just one big gray blurr, but…I found a sheltered place, put my camera on my tripod and started shooting anyway.
At that point I did not know that this was the start of this new and exciting project that I would later call Transcendental Tranquility.
Back at the apartment, looking at the photos on my laptop, the shots showed me the potential and the challenges of working with only the water surface, the horizon and the sky.
But what was most interesting to see was how strong these photos communicated. What deep emotional impact they had.
I decided that day, way back in 2015, to develop the idea into an ongoing project. I would do just the absolute minimum of digital postproduction. It should all happen in and with the camera, at the moment of the shoot.
So that gave a rather strict menu; only water, horizon, light and no digital manipulation. I would have to dig deep into the hidden rooms of my camera to come up with interesting work. It turned out to be an exciting project.
In the following years I worked on the project in the US, France, Italy, Spain, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Sicily and a lot on the south coast of
the UK, in almost every season and all weather conditions. Early morning, at night, sun, rain, snow and storm.
The result is a project in which I literally, as a person and with the camera, take distance from time and have nature come to me. I accept the role of a small and powerless observer looking at this immeasurable immensity of the ocean with the eternally moving water and ever changing light. It’s stripping the observation to the essence really, but what one sees is much more.
Throughout the years Transcendental Tranquility has become an essentially endless series of unique, emotionally charged images, many often looking more like a painting than a photo.
Each of these images evokes an almost meditative state.The different layers one discovers exude a sort of captivating, but sometimes also almost threatening silence.
At exhibitions I have heard people often say that the images spread a blanket of calm over them. That they invite repeated viewing, in which they sort of drown until they obtain a sense of peace that is so often lacking in our modern lives.
Which is just a wonderful feeling, because it is exactly what happens to me at the moment of the shoot. And its exactly the feeling I try to communicate with this project.