in:sights:out exhibition at Reka Art Space 2006


Bernice Chauly – writer, photographer, filmmaker, actor, teacher – will be exhibiting a series of 18 black and white photographs combined with original written text centering around the theme of love. Known primarily for her documentary photography, Chauly ventures into new territory this time by exploring a theme that is more intimate and personal.

Chauly explores and exploits the various love-associated permutations of conflict, desire, sorrow and hope using images of people, objects and events surrounding her life as her subjects. 

Armed with a manual camera, pencil and paper, using only natural light and the strength of memory, she brings out the many poetical colours of her theme juxtaposing hand-written text on paper with photography in each of the works.

Although Chauly’s works are highly personal, they are also able to appeal to a wider audience. By drawing on her mixed parentage, cross-cultural marriage and eclectic beliefs, she effectively taps situations familiar to many of us living in a complex environment besot with “inters, multis, and crosses”.

Chauly’s films and documentaries have been widely shown, both locally and internationally. In 1999, she received the silver award for best documentary in the Malaysian Video Awards for “Semangat Insan – Masters of Tradition”, a documentary series on dying arts forms of Malaysia which she conceptualised, wrote and photographed. And later, in 2000, the gold award for the same series. 
In 2005 she worked on a project on refugees commissioned by the UNHCR Malaysia titled “Face to Face – Confronting the Humanity of Refugees in Malaysia”

“In the amorous realm, the most painful wounds are inflicted more often by what one sees than by what one knows.” – Roland Barthes.

This is a personal show. The theme in which this new body of work was created stemmed from the most fundamental yet beguiling of all human emotions – love. In working with this emotional impetus I have charted a series of experiences in my life which have undoubtedly influenced me as an artist and a person. In choosing to work with the personal I have chosen to remember, recollect, record and subsequently present pieces of evidence in an ongoing personal history.

In looking at the classical Greek notions of love, I have chosen to work the concepts of ‘eros’ and ‘agape’. In ‘eros’ the intrinsic philosophical pursuit is that of Ideal beauty or Art, instead of the usual reference to sexual desire – of which I have also explored – and is a further reflection of a part of an object, idea, or person that partakes in Ideal beauty. The concept of Ideal beauty is one that I have found refuge in many times in the past, and one notion that I have tried to explore in this work. The nature of love is also reflected in the physical, emotional and spiritual realms, and explains the concept of ‘agape’ or love for God and humanity. This is the second philosophical extension that I have tried to assimilate and reflect upon in this series of work.

By presuming love has a nature, it should be, to some extent at least, describable within the concepts of language – whether it is with words, images, music or film. But what is meant by an appropriate language? The lover or the person ‘in love’ is irrational, so how does one constitute a medium in which to express? The epistemology of love asks of how we may know love, how we may understand it, whether it is possible or plausible to make statements about others or ourselves being in love (which touches on the philosophical issue of private versus public) and the method in which we try to express it. In the thought that the true nature of love may be forever be beyond humanity’s intellectual grasp, I can only try to express how the nature of love has dealt its hand in my life and in my work.

I have chosen to do this with the artistic mediums that I have worked with for many years, familiar forms that I have found best express the awesome, divine yet destructive nature of love.

As a writer and  photographer, I have chosen to work with the most basic of tools – a manual camera, pencil and paper – which reflect my singular passion as a purist. The images were shot in the space and confines of my own home, using only natural light, real objects and the strength of memory. The simple act of carving graphite on paper reflects my process as a writer and by utlilizing the combined sense of (in)sight the work is an interpretation of the real presented in conscious constructs of memories. 

The selected poems and text which were written over a period of 20 years are now being married to images – some in more literal ways than others – to reflect the shifting perceptions and juxtapositions associated with each memory; hence creating a discourse between the images and text. With intractable emotions that are associated with love, I have tried to speak of it ; of its failures, its weaknesses, its strengths and symbolizations – from love to love, from lover to the beloved.

As someone who is passionate about telling real stories of others in almost all of my work, I have now decided to tell mine.

Bernice Chauly

March 2006