Walking into Zabo Chabiland's installation, The black Project, the viewer is confronted by a series of squares, black canvases, whose depth and solidity gives them the status of objects or architectural features. The mood is sombre and ordered, with minimal and classical associations, while  the canvases themselves allude to representations of infinite space or a barren void.

It is with these ideas in mind that the viewer begins to detect disturbances of light breaking the black surfaces, which on closer inspection reveal the faintest traces of a human face.

Each pictures/object- the status is now ambiguous-'contains' a face: disembodied,  eyes closed, hovering somewhere behind the picture plane.The faces, though barely visible, register as photographic images, which, when matched with an overall three-dimensionality, give the works an unnerving human presence.

But, like death masks, the faces betray no indication of an expressive life. We are left to consider them as relics might be read more clearly by anthropologists, or as abstract signs of precarious human condition. Chabiland's simple, eloquent works have a spectral grace that seems at odds with a time when the pain, trauma and visceral revelations of death are writ large in our collective consciousness - a time when death, both private and public, is considered fair game for advertisers. These are reverentyet unsettling works, dark spaces where emblems of human spirit lie dormant just out of reach.

 

David Chandler

Head of exhibitions

The Photographers’ Gallery,

London. 1992

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