Samara Scott, Bruises

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2017 by Loose Joints (here). Softcover with an embossed clear plastic dust jacket, 292 pages, with 290 color photographs. There are no essays or texts included. In an edition of 500. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: For most artists, the daily use of a humble paper sketchbook is still an integral, in some cases vital, part of their artistic process. Almost regardless of the eventual medium they plan to employ, those empty white pages end up hosting the precious fragments of creativity, from formal drawings and renderings to tossed off scribbles and ephemeral flashes of inspiration.

But for an increasing number of artists of all kinds, the camera has overtaken the sketchbook as the note taking device of choice. A handy example of this transition comes from the British sculptor and installation artist Samara Scott, whose work was recently on view in the pools of Battersea Park in London and on the floor at Frieze. For Scott, her camera has ended up being an increasingly critical repository for fleeting ideas and serendipitous discoveries.

Scott’s unexpectedly elegant sculptures often employ seemingly random materials suspended in transparent glops and goos like the leftovers in a glittery storm drain or colorful gutter, their puddled messiness hardened into a kind of fluid stasis, full of intricate layers, movements, and interactions. And Scott’s photographs, gathered together for the first time in the photobook Bruises, further investigate these same themes and motifs, her restless eye seemingly always on the lookout for examples of the complex interplay of surfaces and textures.

Bruises is filled to the bursting point with full bleed half-frame images, its small physical size giving it the feel of a dense look book. Each image in the parade is in some sense a singular visual study, each picture a tightly cropped found example of the various issues that inform and underlie Scott’s work. After a dozen or so page flips, the photographs start to feel like a carefully-edited torrent of visual stimuli, and this impression of vitality continues to build across the subsequent pages, almost to the point of exhaustion. By the end, the book feels like the summation of an insightfully relentless artistic search, with a constant undercurrent of grasping to understand how forces like transparency, reflection, and brightness of color can be isolated and managed bubbling throughout.

Scott is clearly something of a visual magpie, constantly gathering sparkly objects for her overflowing nest. She is repeatedly drawn to overlooked visual oddities and consumer castoffs, where an everyday occurrence like cracked glass can splinter into an abstraction of momentary beauty. Veils and transparent fabrics are a repeated theme, as are droplet-spotted windows and reflections off standing or rippled pools. All of these allow Scott to deliberately intermingle foreground and background, where patterns and colors can more overtly tussle and compete with each other.

Other images are more interested in texture, both in the straightforward observation of tire treads, twisted rebar, or cobblestones, and in more nuanced looks at the crinkles of plastic wrap, the smoothness of marbled floors, or the prickliness of leftover staples on a telephone pole. These textures then pile up, interacting with those on the facing pages, or creating rhythms of repetitions across the photobook. Wrinkles, twists, and jumbled forms build on each other, each observation a variation on the larger theme.

Scott also clearly has an acute eye for color. Purple and blue lights cast shadows across an undulating beach, a pink tarp is stretched across an area of chain link fence, a smashed watermelon becomes a riot of green and red, and gestural green seaweed lies on the beach. Again and again, she is drawn to that pop – a black broom, a pair of white swans, a fuzzy blue beach umbrella, a sleek orange tabletop, the red lights of a car show, and the soft blue glow of a skating rink. Color becomes yet another crucial thread that runs through her entire aesthetic journey, and at each juncture, she seems to be looking for specific examples of color in action, where it must interact with nearby texture or spatial distortion in its efforts to stand out.

While too many photographers to count have dutifully run the traps of found visual oddities, Scott’s efforts stand out for both their intent focus and their exuberant improvisation. She is clearly doing her own kind of visual problem solving here, the eye of her camera offering her a way to control her vision and limit her variables. In the context of her work in sculpture and installation, the pictures feel confidently experimental, photography becoming a place for idea generation, combination testing, and constant rework.

In the final tally, Bruises has a contagious kind of energy, where torn jeans, muddy skin, coconut shards, smashed mirrors, and skyscraper windows can be merged into a single coherent flow without feeling precious or mannered. The photobook buzzes with smart seeing, Scott’s photographic details coalescing into a hearty soup of sinuously integrated impressions.

Collector’s POV: Samara Scott is represented by The Sunday Painter in London (here) and Ermes-Ermes in Rome (here). Scott’s photographs have little secondary market history, so gallery retail likely remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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