Ein Augenblick, 2015 - courtesy the artist and Galeria Carlos Carvalho
Ein Augenblick, 2015 - courtesy the artist and Galeria Carlos Carvalho 

Jessica Backhaus - A trilogy and Six degrees of freedom

27/01/2018 - 17/03/2018

Rua Joly Braga Santos, lote f r/c 
1600-123 Lisboa



Jessica Backhaus embarks on her work with an obvious relish in visual experimentation. The photo artist draws inspiration from the simplicity of everyday things, from unassuming scenes and silence. Therein lurk hidden, apparently random encounters with a delicate, poetic reality. Imperfections, but also the transience of things, conceal a contemplative and subtle beauty. Light-suffused spaces present still lifes imbued with a purist, dynamic aesthetic. The photographs are profound emotional studies capturing various moments. Backhaus composes her scenarios with lyricism and keen intuition. 

The artist’s new trilogy brings together three series of approximately 40 works each. A literal thread, in bright colors, runs through the entire trilogy. The first series, Beyond Blue, is devoted completely to this thread. Colorful strands are staged against colored backgrounds. The viewer feels compelled to linger in this radical reduction, trying to unravel the entanglement of the seemingly unspectacular with the resulting aura of contemplation. Is it possible to pin down emptiness? Jessica Backhaus manages to do so. Here, the void is staged so skillfully that the viewer can experience it as a blessed present, unencumbered by past or future. The void is an immeasurable intermediate zone in which a former condition segues into a new and unknown state of being.

In Shifting Clouds, Backhaus considers and documents this very transition – a reality that lies in between things. The second series shows fragments and visions that are poised on the verge of becoming, caught in limbo: reflections, haptically appealing surfaces, shapes imaginatively metamorphosing, upbeat tones, intensely colored sensations. The artist deals here with trains of thought, memories, associations, and patterns that move us to venture a new beginning, relinquishing everything safe and secure. 

In the third series, New Horizon, the artist presents free-flowing and persuasive poetic impressions. The compositions captivate with their variety and puzzle-like elements. Backhaus is breaking new ground in photography, incorporating components of mixed media, painting, and collage that expand and deepen these abstractions. Order, harmony, and stylistic inconsistencies and irritations are interwoven playfully and yet discreetly, with painstaking care. The artist conjoins associations that evoke memories, feelings, and imagined scenes. 


The series six degrees of freedom was inspired by the desire of returning to her own roots. Jessica Backhaus visited places she knew from childhood and youth, confronting them with her memories. By photographing precisely selected elements evoking the past or people who are no longer present in her life, the artist creates a singular inner landscape. Memories dictate the trajectory of her search for the roots, while the traces she captures combine into an intriguing map. Backhaus also touches upon such universal issues as longing, identity or destiny. Although what we see in the photographs seems to portray a very personal journey into family history, the viewer is proffered metaphors rather than archival files recounting one’s life. The series invites us to take a look at the foundation on which an individual identity is build. 

Text: Agata Toromanoff