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In certain parts of the world, the mirror remains little more than a glassless piece of finely buffed metal. For every person who glances directly into its surface, it yields a new image. Centuries of art making have attempted to distill the mirror's alchemical power, address its ills, and play upon the noble verity of its reflections. To incant the myth of Narcissus, there is nothing perhaps more refined than a glossy monochromatic surface, polished to a high lustre. It is at this nexus when the baldly planar becomes reflective, where photography mimics painting and painting ever the clever elder mocks photography.

Bernhard Hildebrandt creates work at the centre of a conceptual duality between what is seen and what remains to be seen, between the static and streaming. In his Stereo series a painting and a photo of it, printed at an identical scale, are paired in diptych format. The viewer is caught stepping between the transient surface reflections playing out on polyurethane enamelled Plexiglas and the reflections captured in its alter-ego, the narcissistic photograph. Whether painted black or white, neither is fully prepared to withhold the light necessary to view it, and so we enter a world of shadows and dappled light.

Hildebrandt makes skilful short videos that rewind Rauschenberg's infamous erasure of a De Kooning drawing, slip into the smoke and mirrors of Cocteau's dreamscapes, and in general trick the eye into seeing what at first glance it does not or otherwise would not normally see. Influenced by nineteenth-century visual culture and the representation-shifting experiments of Joseph Kosuth, the furtive results are often self-reflexively slick propositions.

Steve Pulimood


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