Infra Realism by Kate Ballis
Melbourne-based photographer transforms Southern California scenes into candy-colored dreamscapes
Our Melbourne-based friend, photographer Kate Ballis, will be making her U.S. debut at the Garis & Hahn gallery in Los Angeles this month with the opening of her new solo show, Hypercolor Fantasy: Infra Realism. The exhibition, opening on July 22 and on view through August 25, features Kate’s series of large-scale photographs that transform everyday Southern California archetypes — modernist architecture, pools, vintage cars and desert scenes — into otherworldly candy-colored dreamscapes. Shot with a specially converted full-spectrum mirrorless camera using various infrared filters, Kate reimagines a number of Palm Springs and high desert locations as a surreal world in which succulents and palm trees are depicted in vibrant hues of blue, skies are a rich magenta, and swimming pools blood red. The contrasting colors illuminate the textures of the lush foliage that once blended into the desert landscape.
Palm Springs Style: Why did you choose Southern California and primarily the desert as your focus for this series?
Kate Ballis: Southern California chose me!! Palm Springs has been a second home for Tom and I since we fell in love with the desert-scapes, dancing light on the mountains, mid-century – architecture/time-warp and kind souled residents in 2013! After my 7th trip there, I had photographed it so many times that although it was my favourite place, it was no longer my muse. I had to find way to reinterpret it, to show another side. Through what had become an almost uninspiring familiarity of Southern California, I desperately wanted to make it unfamiliar, and that’s how the series was born!
PSS: Do you have a favorite image from the series?
KB: My favourite image is ‘Peekaboo’ because the car looks like it’s doing a sexy-striptease! I also love “Liberace” because the infrared photo which is designed to highlight the health of plants (it was used by industrial farmers to check the health of plants) shows the synthetic grass as a dense dark dead area, which is in part totally superficial and on the other hand, is great for saving water in the desert.
PSS: Do certain elements contribute to ideal conditions for images like these?
KB: The ideal lighting conditions are under the harsh midday sun as the plants are emitting the most infrared, and via my process, the sky becomes a solid raspberry colour. And the more interesting foliage the better! That’s why Palm Springs is the perfect location for my series, the residents take such immense pride in their landscaping and pick out a botanical-garden’s worth of varieties of desert succulents and survivors.
From Kate’s artist statement:
Infra Realism sits in the mysterious realm between reality and the surreal. Residing in a lucid dreamscape, it is familiar in form and yet subverts the familiar colour and scale we rely on to interpret the visions around us. The infrared spectrum of light emanating from plants sits just beyond the light spectrum visible to humankind. My work, in that sense, straddles science and magic, providing a glimpse into the unknown, making the unseen, seen, and the seen unseen. Magic. My photos aim to candy coat California, from wild deserts, to pools, to the banal. It uses magical realism to re-enchant a place I have visited 7 times. I am fascinated with unseen energy and am excited to create work that catches a glimpse of a world that exists just outside human perception. Like a memory you can’t quite pinpoint. There is more out there. The vibrations of the colours imitates the vibration of light and energy, also unseen. All is a ﬁction of light. Perhaps the work is subconsciously inspired by the lives and wardrobes of my Barbie dolls in the 80s, attending an MTV party, cocktail in hand.
Be sure to check out Kate’s show at Garis & Hahn if you’re in Los Angeles! On Sunday, July 22, the gallery will be open special hours, from noon to 8 p.m., in conjunction with the Industrial Street Block Party, with an exhibition walkthrough with Kate at 3 p.m. Also be on the lookout for Kate’s first book, featuring her Infra Realism series, which will be released by Australian publisher Manuscript in November 2018.
Kate Ballis // Hypercolor Fantasy: Infra Realism
Garis & Hahn
1820 Industrial Street Los Angeles, CA 90021