Steve Oliver’s practice promotes doubt as an intentional, productive and morally responsible starting position. The photographic image serves well as a gateway to this kind of conversation: thin approximations, with edges where things abruptly stop. We make critical decisions and moral judgements built on what we can know from them; they both form and deform our behaviour.
The broad character of his photographic works is formed by the parallel gestures of adding and removing found photographic material. The tensions formed between subject and material are in part achieved from both the found and the made operating within the same frame.
His images are made up of competing surfaces, which do not neatly allow for photographic illusions to take; though they can demand that one is prepared to look carefully. Specific attempts have been made to slow the reading speed of the photograph down to that of a painting (even a text, though strictly in relation to time spent). In subtly distorting principal photographic illusions the eye is prevented from drifting uninterrupted, thrown back to the surface at all points; encouraged to inspect the quality and validity of competing pieces and the relationships they share.
One senses a spatial or temporal disorder, as if several separate places or moments are colliding. This gives the photographs a filmic quality; only here the cuts and sequences are all happening in a single frame. In this very formal sense, the images function a lot like memory.
These works rest on their ability to flatten space, to reveal the material facts of the photographic surface, to declare themselves as objects. The collaging of disparate parts prevents precise perspective lines from running out beyond the edges of the image, onto the wall and into the world. They remain contained within the strict boundaries of the frame and in this sense the images take on the precise spatial limits of an object. This is why they must be encountered in the flesh, and lose something vital to their reading when seen through a screen. Here we find another of the numerous tensions and contradictions of these images. The pervasiveness of the digital artefact and the lightning speed at which it can travel is here set in tension against the single image-object; a decisively analogue mode.
These subtle, dissonant images are something to be sensed and experienced, rather than solved. In the end, they give away little save their imageness.