Isobel Napier is a British artist who graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art (UCL) in 2018. In honour of her spectacular graduate show, staff at the Slade gave Isobel an enlarger to set up her own studio. Her most recent photogram, created especially for the auction, is one of the first works developed in her new home darkroom.
A photogram is a image that is made by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material, such as photographic paper, and then exposing it to light. The result is a negative 'shadow' image that shows variations in tone and intensity based upon the transparency of the objects used. In this method, areas of the paper that have received no light appear white. This technique is also known as 'cameraless photography'.
Isobel explores the delicacy of paper and fabric in her work, utilizing the historic and analogue process of contact printing to create large-scale photograms. The intricate laser cut paper pieces, manipulated to imitate fabric, are each transformed into sculptural representations suspended in-front of light sensitive paper. In this way each photogram is unique, and the three-dimensional nature of the sculpture is captured, with the fluidity in the hang of the ‘fabric’ visible. The intense black afforded by Ilford photographic paper, in contrast to bright white tones, produces an incredibly detailed and contrasting image.
The resulting ghost image preserves and records the impermanent sculptural objects; a partial yet objective account of an ephemeral sculptural event. In this way the photogram functions as a form of evidence. But the photogram also becomes a primary work in itself, moving beyond documentation. Through a form of alchemy the seemingly magical process of working with light sensitive material transforms the sculptures into something new.
Isobel was one of six artists invited to collaborate with Burberry for the launch of their new monogram design. The project can be viewed on the Burberry website and Instagram, which includes a film of Isobel working in her home darkroom.