An Essay written for Concrete Flux Online Journal # 1  2013 


About the SYNTHESIS series

As an artist and photographer Im always collecting materials. The materials I find myself procuring usually  have cultural, intellectual  and spiritual but most of all visual significance to me. These materials or locations always possess a visual resonance at the time of collection. I feel it is my responsibility to listen to that resonance,  listen with my eyes so to speak and seek / find  where that object or photo of a location / portrait may take me later on. 

 While Im shooting the city,  I just like to creatively respond to my surroundings. I Take it all in and shoot the things that stand out to me. I guess this goes for  any context (but especially the urban chaotic environment).  So much is changing in the urban context that going out to photograph with a theme in mind (for me) can limit the potential of discovering .  My mind / intention / eyes would be so focused on the thing I’m hunting in the jungle so to speak, that I miss the expansive eco-system I have the potential to interact with.So I’d rather just treat every instance of shooting the city as a new creative interaction ,responding to the beauty in the environment then going back to my studio to sort it out later.  I tend to work backwards – or sideways like that. I make things first then interpret it or classify it later as relationships emerge in process. 

 I take a similar approach to painting. There is this sense of direction in my studio but the theme or concept emerges through process of making / collecting ,  analyzing and synthesizing the layering of materials ideas and images. I would much rather make, observe, capture or encounter— something that surprises me than that is calculated and forced from the beginning to end.

 Over time and after reviewing images Ive noticed that shooting these urban organic relationships for me is interesting. Visual clusters of dense information emerge everywhere you look in China.   Number covered stickers pasted on sliding steel overhead doors over time accumulate and  turn into clouds.  Markets and magazine stands turn into caves of hanging posted color. Walls in alleys scrawled with beautiful children’s drawings.  turn into modern cave paintings, or into Cy Twombly murals.  Mountains of plastic or styrofoam packing objects are these massive translucent sculptures. 

 Each instance are organic entities made up of marks,  material, time and of course in most cases human interaction with the urban environment. They create these mysterious records (visual sound bites) of interaction that unfold around us daily,  but that quickly disappear. So I capture them. 

 As I’m sifting though things editing,  there are visual experiences that start to interest or re- interest me. During this time  I like to respond intuitively re-contextualizing and collaging images. Most of these (mash-ups) are diptychs and are my initial response to and interest in places I go in the city. 

 I assemble them keeping in mind visual relationships., very formal kinds of concerns. Emerging conceptual meaning just happens, its not forced , but followed and then tended to like one would tend a garden (for lack of a better metaphor) . Ive been playing with paneled formats for along time. Sometimes the line between panels blurs, sometimes the viewer is challenged to make a broader leap to connect what Im presenting. Both instances are interesting to me so they become apart of this longterm developing series which is continually growing. 

 Its interesting to look through and see senses of humor, political content etc. emerge as this series has been assembled over the past few years.  Some people would peg this process as accidental but I think theres allot more to it than that. There are subconscious layers from capture to edit that are always happening. In then end its proof to me at least you can find beauty and something intriguing everywhere even amongst the ruble and the transparent margins of what we often overlook in the urban landscape.


Stephen Gleadow
Beijing 2013