Did you ever get into that trend for colour-coding your books? I did. I spent two full days taking all my books down from the shelves, reorganising them according to colour, and placing them back in a perfect rainbow spectrum. It looked gorgeous – everyone commented on it. But boy did it take a long time. Imagine then doing this same exercise, but with every possession you own. Not just your books, not just your clothes, but your toiletries, tools, kitchenware, CDs, and even all that stuff from the drawer full of keys, straws and Sellotape.
The mind boggles, but this is exactly the task that artist Helga Steppan set herself for her photography project See Through. She sorted everything she owned into twelve colour categories – white, black, yellow, red, miscellaneous, blue, orange, green, pink, grey, purple, and brown – arranging and photographing each set in ways that reference traditional art composition techniques.
The images also remind us of See Woo and Her Pink Things, a work by photographer JeongMee Yoon which documented all of her daughter’s pink possessions, making a point about the ‘pinkification’ of girls’ childhoods. Steppan’s images however are less about an identity being forced on her via colour-coded products, and more about disrupting the usual jumble of things that surround us in search of clues to our identity. Steppan herself says that the photographs ‘ask the viewer to consider whether they can discover the artist’s persona reflected in the meticulously constructed installations of her material possessions.’
For decorators and those in search of colour inspiration, the images have a powerful effect too. On first glance each image seems almost uniform in its colouring, but as you look longer and closer you begin to see the many, many gradations of ‘white’ or ‘blue’. The all-white image is particularly instructive. The mix of ‘brilliant’ white with other near whites like string, bone-coloured plastic, linen and cotton and paper emphasises the way in which paring back colour can enhance the subtle differences between shades, creating a ‘spectrum’ all of its own.
All images by Helga Steppan. For more information on Helga Steppan’s work visit the Man & Eve gallery.