When do the rules that govern photography actually limit creativity?, asks Mariah Robertson, who “likes to find the point at which the little mediocre photographer [in me] gets its feathers ruffled”. Who said a print had to meekly accept being confined to a frame? Why can’t it ripple along a floor, up a wall and across a ceiling? Why does photographic paper have to be cut here and not there, especially if “the rough edges turned out to be the best part”? As for what gets to go onto that paper, Robertson admits to being strongly attracted to photography’s “alternative historical processes from photography’s shadowy beginnings with Victorian chemical hobbyists”, noting that this experimental urge continues unabated through the mid-20th century. She’s got the bug, too: in the camera or in the darkroom, in black and white or colour, Robertson cheerfully ignores standard procedures and welcomes accidents. Solarizations and photograms in the Man Ray mode, irregular chemical reactions, negative collage, games with filters, etc, etc… Spontaneous combustion seems as good a strategy as any when you are practicing alchemy.
As for what’s pictured, Robertson likes to confound figuration with abstraction. Her Nude with Afghani Export Rug seems like a pretty formal study of a male body until one looks a little more closely at the décor and notices that the pleasing, abstract pattern is actually composed of helicopters, AK-47s and tanks – big toys for big boys. Robertson’s abstraction can pack quite a punch.