In Nick Veasey’s art, we get to look beneath the surface. Literally and figuratively, philosophically and concretely. Via X-ray imaging, the core of objects is revealed to the viewer. What are things actually made of? Layers of skin, age, sex and ethnicity are peeled away. What remains is a universal image of that which constitutes a human being, far removed from the idea of the Other.
“I want my images to make people sit up and take notice. I want to reach out to the viewer. My starting point is that we are all essentially the same from the inside out, which X-ray photography demonstrates. I’m convinced that there is more that unites us than divides us. That’s why every human body in my photographs is represented by the same skeleton, regardless of what attributes I add to the image,” Nick Veasey explains.
According to Veasey, we should question our obsession with superficiality. His X-ray images are a way of posing this question.
“It is with great pleasure that we at Fotografiska present this different and in many ways challenging exhibition, which raises important questions about life in general and expands the boundaries of the photographic art form,” Johan Vikner, Exhibition Manager at Fotografiska says.
In the new exhibition Inside Out, no object is too small – or too large – to be scrutinized by Veasey’s X-ray camera. How about X-ray photographs of a bus full of passengers, a couple of lovers, some exquisite Victorian garments from the Victoria & Albert Museum, a sports car or a flower… What hides beneath the surface?
“There is often great beauty in the simple mundane everyday things that surround us, things that are transformed into precious memories. However, one has to observe them and realize that things of value are not just purchased. You can’t buy love and contentment. I’m motivated to create artworks that lead to the important question: Why are we so obsessed with the superficial?”
Veasey believes in the opposite of superficiality: to subject objects to a forensic scientific study in order to try to answer a question he claims we should all reflect on more frequently: What does it all mean?
A major challenge for Veasey, who has a great interest in technology, is to ensure that his projects do not become dominated by a pursuit of perfection, which may risk sacrificing the desired meaning in the work.
“My works are metaphors for life in general, to see beyond the obvious. Think of love: how it often begins with a superficial attraction only to move along the challenging and exciting road of learning to know one another and looking beneath the surface. That’s why the same skeleton represents all human bodies in my photographs, regardless of whichever attributes I add to the image. What is concealed under the surface of that which we present? In this way, X-ray photography is very honest. If the quality is poor it is immediately apparent…”
Veasey’s journey into the promised land of X-rays began when his wife was commissioned to arrange an X-ray photo of a soft drink can for a TV show. Veasey accepted the challenge and was soon completely absorbed by all the possibilities of this technique and began constructing equipment to be able to take X-ray photos of larger objects. His most noted work so far is perhaps his image of a plane… and his commission to X-ray photograph Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection of historic clothes. Both series form part of the exhibition Inside Out at Fotografiska.
“X-rays are dangerous and they are invisible to the human eye. They have no smell and you can’t touch them. It’s exciting to use something that is invisible to make things visible. This is reminiscent of when the botanist Anna Atkins in 1850 used cyanotype to develop a photographic process that made it possible to freeze the moment without using a camera. It gives me great pleasure to see something that wasn’t visible. To capture the moment, in depth.”
Veasey also tackles the subject of twentieth-century art, with a hint of Dada and Surrealism, making his X-rays scrutinize objects reminiscent of iconic artworks – presented in the most fascinating way at Fotografiska.