Aesthetica Magazine Issue 118

April / May 2024

There’s a famous Tennessee Williams quote: “Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by so quickly you hardly catch it going.” I’ve had that written down on a piece of paper, and I have been carrying it around for years. It resonates with me. We must unplug, disconnect and savour the things that bring us joy – from the macro to the micro we must embrace it all. Life is complicated and our relationship with technology has made it faster and more efficient – I am still amazed at what I can achieve from my phone. However, we’re always “on” and often detached from our surroundings. We are truly in the Anthropocene, and, for the first time in history, more people live in urban than rural locations. 

Inside this issue we explore these ideas further. First up, we look to Kunstmuseum Basel’s Dan Flavin presentation, which asks key questions about the longevity of Flavin’s fluorescent tubes. Looking back, this minimalist approach and use of industrial materials was radical. It changed the course of art history forever. Next, we speak with Jessica Backhaus about how she has stripped photography back to its fundamentals of light, shadow and colour, as she moves towards total abstraction. Michael Webb, architecture writer, chats about his latest publication, California Houses. The allure of the 900 mile coastline, palm trees and blue skies endures, but we look at how buildings are responding to the climate emergency in a move towards net zero. Tyler Mitchell, Vogue’s first Black fashion photographer, opens a Berlin show that offers new perspectives on self-determination and finding the extraordinary in everyday experiences. 

In photography, we feature Djeneba Aduayom, Olivia Lavergne, John Barbiaux, Vlad Hrynko, Michelle Blancke and our cover photographer Sarah Doyle. They bring us to new worlds engaging with history, memory and place through series that are pushing boundaries of where photography can go next. Finally, the Last Words go to artist and developer Liam Wong. His work is part of Photo City, on now at V&A Dundee.

Cherie Federico 

Towards Abstraction 

Light, shadow, form and composition are the central elements of Jessica Backhaus’ practice, stripping photography back to its core tenets.

Joyful Contrasts 

Sarah Doyle plays with visual harmony. Torn paper, wooden sticks and cut-out circles pop against colourful block-painted backgrounds.

Memory Illuminated 

The current Dan Flavin retrospective in Basel demonstrates how a simple fluorescent tube
could make a radical impact on the art world.

Building the Image 

Colourful lights are projected onto various household objects, transforming cluttered spaces into entirely different compositions.

Outside Perspective 

A small town on the fringes of Pittsburgh is at the centre of a photo series that asks us to
consider what happens behind closed doors.

Portrait of Emotion 

Djeneba Aduayom’s bright photographs take bubbles as a metaphor, featuring subjects who find themselves caught in translucent spheres.

Visionary Storyteller 

Tyler Mitchell is making waves across art and fashion with portraits of Black life centring on self-determination and the joyous everyday.

Into the Unfamiliar 

Michelle Blancke takes us into dark, enigmatic and unusual woodland locations. They are all carpeted with mosses and lurid lichen growth.

Creative Destination 

California’s iconic homes are the subject of an architecture book that collates buildings which respond to their natural surroundings.

Places Transform 

French photographer Olivia Lavergne curates ambitious scenes, investigating how rainforests are conjured up within the public imagination.