Blending is Robert Marnika’s latest exploration of the subtle relationships between the human being and nature. Following a sudden intuition and inspired by the inflorescence of palm trees, the artist captures the moves of an intriguing dancer becoming an abstract character together with the flowering stems.
Each image portrays the same elements – the body of a woman and palm inflorescence against a flat, unimportant background – in a unique composition where depth, boundaries and shapes are difficult to ascertain. The observer can grasp the location and function of each subject within the photo yet there are plenty of inexplicable details that blur the two together, initiating a process of metamorphosis. In an intricate game of monochromatic shadows, textures and shapes the photos indicate that the abundant fronds and the human body are cooperating in a quest to blend, protect, support and nurture each other. Nothing or nobody aims to prevail on the other: the human figure seeks a safe refuge, dissolving under the delicate flowering clusters of the palm, which in return benefits from the steadiness and creativity of the human presence.
Removing colour information is a deliberate choice that succeeds in enhancing the abstract yet very antique nature of the series. All images have been shot with a digital camera, however the approach seems traditional, as if sepia portraits or black ink illustrations were used as an artistic reference. In fact Robert Marnika had largely used film technology in the past for projects such as Quadrumiki or Visits where the boundaries between photography and painting blur into an exquisite game of nostalgia and dreamy fantasy. He not only mastered the art of post production but created his own poetic, then translated to the digital medium. In Blending the female skin is not as and defined as seen in many contemporary nude photography projects but is instead softly brushed in juxtaposition to rough, articulated, hairy stems. At times there is no depth at all so the candid branches become a screen to the woman presence, or her hair or her contemporary designer dress.
In its monastic simplicity, Blending proposes a settlement to the ever conflictual rapport between people and nature. None is superior neither inferior yet together both can grow strong and surprisingly stupendous, in prosperous harmony and absence of ego. We don’t need to establish a visual relationship through the eyes of the female as she transforms into the branches without looking for an escape. She is safe there and she will express her gratitude by sustaining the Earth when it will be its turn to be fragile and vulnerable.