Thursday, 6 March 2014


Image_08_063 © Richard Ansett

“Richard Ansett’s large Lambda print is an ambiguous document. Image_06_083 2010 is a portrait that is insolently provocative yet darkly reserved. There is a tension between the staged and the accidental, the momentary and perpetual. Is the subject of the portrait (whose attire references the aesthetic of bureaucracy) telling us he’s bored? And if so, with what: His life, art, us? As an image Ansett’s work is disarmingly simple and eloquently realised.” - Fay Nicolson, an Magazine


  1. When I first saw your personal portrait series I was blown away by the compassion. They are the majority but there are a few, like this one, commerical jobs? where I get the feeling you were a tiny bit ambivalent about the person you were being paid to photograph : )

    & reminded me of some of Brian Griffin's pics of men in suits in his 80's book 'WORK'.

    1. hi Pete, ambivalence is defined as having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about the same subject, not as is often believed, a lack of care or commitment. I chose to exhibit this image (which is indeed re-imagined from another commercial purpose) as a discussion of the former. It is an early exploration into the facticity of an event. This led to the need to invent the word 'facuity', which is defined as the awareness of facticity.
      I discuss with Victoria Ivanova the concept that a landscape changes depending on how it is viewed; the viewer maybe happy or depressed and the view of the universe will appear entirely different whilst in reality staying the same. It is a point of reference issue.
      So, this image was chosen for its ability to transform into different meanings as it is viewed. It is considered initially to be a yawn, but beyond this it is a genuine, primitive expression and I feel sometimes I see the primate; the monkey at the tea party. Fay Nicholson recognised the multiplicity and it should be embraced rather than fought against. Certainty is not the goal, it is an enquiry.
      Interestingly, you use the word compassion for my 'personal' work but that is your view and perhaps an assumption of a shared goal, it is not. Other equally valid opinions range from cynism, humor to banality. An observation or creation of an image, like a worldview is as much a refection of the observer and offers insight into our state of mind. I am ambivalent. Any sensitivity is accidental; the primary objective is to challenge the peripheries of how we define our individual universes by re-presenting ordinariness.

  2. Hi, R

    I definitely didn't assume compassion was your goal! I was aware that any tag or label would not sit comfortably with you, so it was risky to put it out there - but while it might be completely incidental to you I'd argue that yes the 'appearance' of compassion is present in many of your best portraits and is actually a defining quality (that registers with me and other people), although it is certainly not the only one, there's a lot more going on.

    Compassion in art (or even in life) is seen as a bit cheesy in the West but in Eastern thought it's right up there as having the highest value in a profoundly metaphysical way and I'm with them on that. It's far more than 'there, there, would you like a cup of tea, love' .

    Over the millenia the West and the East also developed surprisingly parallel theories of reality and its illusory nature. I think it's important that you don't want your work to be pinned down - the best work can't be - it needs room to have a life of its own, and if it's successsful it's always going to be more than what someone can articulate at any point in time.


    1. Complex or dark emotional states, which are the stalwart of great art seem to be shied away from in photography, certainly in the West, I can see that. One fashion for the blank gaze off camera springs to mind, effective for contemplation of the complexity of undefined emotions but now a little over-reproduced by everyone and their dog (and occasionally me); its great but its not the siege of Stalingrad. I think this maybe a consequence of the commercial realities faced by good photographers who want to be braver but there is a line one does not cross without consequences. I am very interested in that line.
      We seem to tolerate terrible suffering explored by artists working in other media (in the vain of Munch or Shostakovich) but there is less interest in photography that explores this level of fracture. Perhaps as a realist medium it is too much to bear. Don McCullin is in the process of being canonised as the master of a lost brand of brutalism and beauty that is no longer stomached by contemporary editors. But, even this great work is presented within an acceptable framework of 'documentary' and McCullin himself struggles with the term 'artist', whilst acknowledging in hindsight, the influence on him of the great art of the past.
      This framework for presentation is an area I am processing now; I am interested in the artists that are creating their own frames of reference, which I think you do with your work.
      I think you are onto something in regard to a different cultural response to emotions by East and West. The British reserve, a lack of enthusiasm to let emotions out of the box vs the brutal sentimentalism in eastern europe; perhaps because our modern histories are so completely different? Large swathes of the planet have horrible modern memories which must inevitably affect a mass psychology, that culturally we have escaped BUT this masks and belittles the suffering of the individual that I am exposed to everyday here. I was discussing this with Jorge Dieguez yesterday; there is a lack of critical scrutiny of British society by photographers, editors and curators. It seems easier to cast our critical gaze onto others but there is so much here to de-construct, especially our relationship to capitalism.
      I loved Ukraine, I haven't laughed and cried and screamed and argued so much since I was a child.