The first time I saw Nan Goldin’s work was at the end of the eighties or beginning of the nineties in the now-defunct French magazine Actuel. I was a teenager then and fell instantly in love. Twenty years on, I still feel the same way whenever I watch any of Nan Goldin’s slideshows – her favourite support. It moves me beyond words, makes me feel like crying and laughing at the same time. Alive, in one word.
As I tried to explain to a friend of mine recently, what moves me so much in her photographs is their humanity. Beyond technical aspects, which she masters without a doubt anyway, whether it be colours, compositions, or her use of natural light, what makes her a great artist to me is her ability to capture moments, looks, movements. This microsecond that holds thousands of years of humanity; what, despite our differences, makes us all the same. Nan Goldin has this precious and rare power to capture life, raw. In its beauty and ugliness, its pureness and dirtiness, joy and sadness, life and death, in sickness or in health.
Nan Goldin has been photographing her life and others around her since the 1970’s, like a journal, a way to record the truth, turned into a gift of intimacy. She once said that the reason she started taking photographs was, “to make a record against revisionism, against any one revising my life or what I saw”. It’s also a way not to forget others. Having lost her sister at the age of eleven, she soon realised she had even forgotten the colour of her eyes, and photographing her surrogate family of friends is like a guaranty not to let the memory of them drift away. Fire Leap is the photographer’s seventh slideshow and compiles images of her friends’ children from 1972, starting with images of late pregnancy and following them through childhood in their daily routines, playing, bathing, eating, dreaming. Once again, in these rather banal moments, she manages to capture the magic of humanity, and in this case, childhood, in all its nuances, from pure bursts of joy to the gravity of reverie. These children are playing, thinking, meditating even, daydreaming, acting, jumping, dressing up, dancing, shouting, simply smiling to the camera, playing with it or forgetting it, so absorbed in their games, dreams or thoughts. Fire Leap, as any other Nan Goldin’s slideshows, exudes life.
About slideshows, Nan Goldin has in the past stated that her “genius, if [I] have any, is in the slideshows, in the narratives. It is not in making perfect images. It is in the groupings of work. It is in relationships I have with other people.” Genius, she certainly does have. The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, her masterpiece, has been cited as one of the greatest influences upon Western contemporary art and, after two major retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, as well as many other exhibitions in prestigious venues, she is now one of the most highly respected photographers of today.
The presentation of Fire Leap, alongside further recent works, will be held at Sprovieri gallery’s new space on 23, Heddon Street, London W1, from 24th June to 17th September. For more information, visit www.sprovieri.com/london.