In the early 1990s, Wall began to use computers in the construction of his photographs. He commented: ‘I’ve been able to experiment with a new range of subjects or types of picture that weren’t really possible for me before… I have always considered my work to be a mimesis of the effects of cinema and of painting (at least traditional painting), and so the fictional, formal and poetic part of it has always been very important.’ While his use of digital montage is obvious in his more implausible scenarios, Wall also regularly applies the process to his realistic pictures.
A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) 1993
This work is one of Wall’s earliest digital montages. It refers directly to a woodblock print by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. Wall transposes the nineteenth-century Japanese scene to a contemporary cranberry farm near Vancouver. Amateur actors play the odd assortment of rural and city characters, surprised by the forces of nature. It required over 100 photographs, taken over the course of more than a year, to achieve a seamless montage that gives the illusion of capturing a real moment in time.
This photograph shows actual conservators apparently in the process of working on the restoration of a panoramic painting in Lucerne, Switzerland. The title also evokes Wall’s own complex relationship with his artistic past.
Although Wall used a 360° panorama camera, he chose to capture only 180°, or half the panorama, digitally collaging overlapping exposures. This idea was important to Wall. ‘The exclusion of the space behind the camera is measured in a way that no other picture I’ve made is so closely measured… And of course there’s a woman looking into the space… into part of the picture you can’t see, to make a little accent to that notion that there’s a space outside.’