After Vermeer ( Images | Introduction | Print Sales )

Jean-Claude Lemagny, of the Biblioth�que Nationale in Paris, which has several of Kilsby's photographs in its permanent collection, wrote:

'A refined and visionary photographer, Paul Kilsby transcends the confines of different epochs in his exploration of our common cultural past. Graced by the magic of his perfect technique, his highly original photographs fuse their sources to yield new hybrid images which sustain our fascination by their visual logic.'

My photographs spring from an enduring obsession. I first saw Vermeer�s paintings as a schoolboy and recognized straightaway that there was something strange and beautiful about how they showed the world. I was reminded then of peering into the ground glass screen of an old Kodak box camera I had been given � there was something shared in the luminous and liquid tonalities of both. Now, of course, I realize that as I wandered round my house I was using that old camera as a camera obscura and that Vermeer had, to all intents and purposes, a parallel and prescient �photographic� experience. In a way, Vermeer was proposing a photographic paradigm. There has been plenty of theoretical and practical analysis of Vermeer�s use of the camera obscura in recent years, trying to prove one way or the other whether he did or did not own and use the device. But that doesn�t interest me any more � it is obvious to me as it is to anyone who has used a large format camera that Vermeer�s paintings draw upon an experience of the world mediated by an optical, photographic experience. The photographs in this series seek to explore that silent, optical world. They begin as still lifes made up of reproductions, sometimes scoring, sometimes folding, sometimes cutting sections out and reworking Vermeer�s compositions. I�m interested too in exploring a restricted focus as a way to �reroute� the paintings� narrative strands. These photographs are made physically and optically, without digital interventions.

I first saw a photograph printed in platinum at the V & A � it was one of those huge Irving Penn cigarette stubs. I was overwhelmed by the glow, this intense luminosity. It gave his imagery a kind of heightened reality I�d never encountered before in a photograph and I�ve longed to use platinum myself ever since. In the last few years I�ve had the chance to work with Paul and Max Caffell and Dominic Burd of 31 Studio. They have pushed the medium of platinum to new heights and have worked with many artists from Sebasti�o Salgado to Simon Starling. Working with them is a close collaboration, really exploring the unique characteristics of the process. We have spent many hours discussing and reworking the images in this exhibition. For me, the medium is central. There is in fact something quite painterly about platinum palladium printing � not just the way the emulsion is painted onto the watercolour paper but the depth and richness of tones that result when the process is mastered. For my project, the hybridity of the medium seems especially well suited. There is another aspect, too, that intrigues me � the almost alchemical nature of the process, with its use of precious metals to fix light and shade for centuries.