Rafael Soldi: Life Stand Still Here at Filter Photo Chicago

Rafael Soldi, Untitled (XIV), 2013. Courtesy Filter Photo

How does one present in photographs that which is beyond representation? That was the question at the crux of Rafael Soldi’s Life Stand Still Here, a paradoxical visual meditation on the “resolute innerness” of the psyche. And while he appears to be fully aware of the fundamental unknowability of that inner state, Soldi set out to picture it.

In Lifeline and Sight, Soldi’s intimate subject matter – lines on palms or the insides of eyes (rendered by ophthalmic photography) – becomes uncannily distant, almost impassive. The muted palette (black, white, and shades of gray) serves to underscore the restrained materiality of all of Soldi’s photographs; the subject matter appears to fade away and surface textures are emphasized instead. It seems at first as though You Are Already My Memory is crumpled. But it is a trompe l’oeil effect: the print is smooth and uncreased, but it depicts a wrinkled piece of paper. One cannot help but wonder about the contents of the other side of that paper. Is it blank? Is it a discarded letter? Another photograph? Like all of the works on view, it remains inscrutable.

 Even the human figures in the portraits Veer and Untitled (XIV) turn away, refusing to be fully seen. Soldi writes that he is interested, chiefly, in “the core of selfhood that we can’t share with others because it is so private,” and his images reflect that deep solitude. But, as a viewer, I certainly can imagine that some of the frustration I felt in parsing Soldi’s impenetrable photographs mirrored his own in making them.

That is because Soldi’s works do not ultimately present the psyche of the artist. Rather, they grasp at it as only works of art are able, testifying to its existence through their inability to represent it. But if that is why Soldi’s photographs ultimately work—because we as viewers do see what they are grasping at—it is because we are not psychic islands, after all. Ironically, Soldi seems to know that, too.