John Goto’s exhibition at the Edinburgh Printmakers may be small but it certainly evokes an intense response from the viewer. His collection of Mosaics, inspired by the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip in 2008-09, provides an unflinching and punchy exploration of not only the horror of the atrocities that resulted in the deaths of over a thousand Palestinians, but particularly the media black-out that surrounded the event. Then again you’d expect nothing less from an artist whose digital photography often strives to depict the politics of media power play.
Here Goto speaks to the contemporary climate of political and cultural uncertainty and conflict, first questioning unimaginable acts of war and then considering whether, regardless of censorship, such acts can ever truly be captured in a photograph. Indeed his work also speaks to the wider debate surrounding the honesty of photo-reportage as a journalistic medium. As Goto himself has said, he chose the title of Mosaic to reflect both the word’s derivation in ‘relating to Moses, the lawgiver’ and its use as a term for the standard graphics filter used in the censoring of images – simultaneously pertaining to the political content and visual surface of the works.
His double-sided prints show on one side a grainy image smuggled out of Gaza, already obscured and appearing as though constructed out of tiny tesserae. On the other is an abstraction of this image into a grid of muted mauves and greys which bring to mind both Klee’s colour theory works and Rothko’s melancholic canvases. This process of abstraction further distances the viewer from an already censored image and challenges them to see beyond the somewhat clinical pixilation and observe the raw, ‘honest’ image behind, however unsettling it might be.
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