On Reflection (2014)
The mirrors in On Reflection reflect what appear to be still-life paintings by Jan Brueghel, but the images are illusions—not only because they are mediated by mirrors, but also because each reflection is not of a painting but of a replica, featuring artificial flowers meticulously crafted by hand. The three replicas Gersht created, each based on a different Breughel bouquet, are comments on the nature of the original paintings, in which Brueghel chose not to depict wild flowers but blossoms that were the result of a sophisticated horticultural intervention by man. The depiction of the simultaneous perfection of so many species that bloom in different seasons and in far flung geographically locations—a fantasy of a desirable, but never attainable reality—is an assertion of the power of art and craft, alongside the power of science and technology, to remake the world of objects.
In contrast to the laborious and meticulous processes that led to the creation of the replicas of the bouquets in Brueghel’s paintings, the compositions that were captured by the camera at the instant of the mirrors shattered were rapid and unpredictable. The use of the two cameras allowed Gersht to capture simultaneously two contrasting views of the same event. One focused close up on the glass surface of the mirror, the other—at a distance of three meters—on the reflection of the vase of flowers. Because of the different focusing points and the limited depth of field, each camera captured an alternative reality, questioning the relationship between photography and a single objective truth. The final photographic prints simultaneously embrace rigorous and painstaking craft and the mechanical instantaneousness of the digital camera. In them, Gersht raises the question of whether the camera records, or creates, reality.