Christopher Köller’s photographs don’t strive for the ‘ideal’ view, but for a view that is different, unexpectedly beautiful or jarring. The blurred edges of plants and buildings bleed into one another and generate a sense of restless movement, a feeling that we can’t quite focus on any one point – as though we were moving though the landscape of a dream.
Produced between 1997 and 2009, the scope of Parádeisos is vast, taking us from Zen Gardens in Kyoto to a roadside in West Hollywood, from Marie Antoinette’s simulations of peasant life in Versailles to the grounds of the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne. The diversity of locations portrayed reflects both Köller’s insatiable curiosity for travel and also the nomadic lifestyle of many contemporary artists. Residencies in Italy, Japan, Spain and the USA have allowed the expansion of the Parádeisos series and have also helped to define Köller’s artistic practice more broadly.
Gardens always embody a tension between order and predictability as planned designs are subject to the random workings of the natural world. Christopher Köller’s choice of equipment – a cheap plastic camera – doubles this. The photographer’s control of the photograph is in constant play with the unpredictable effects of the camera and its distortions. Köller delights in the camera’s ‘mistakes’: its limited focus, unexpected bursts of colour, and tendency to reveal artefacts of the negative. In Parádeisos, these camera-effects blend with the gardens, and with the tension and play that we find in the combination of careful organisation with unruly nature.
Christopher Köller trained as a silk-screen printer and then inspired by the Beat writers and an intense curiosity, travelled extensively throughout the late 1960s and ’70s. He returned to Australia to study photography at Prahran under Athol Shmith and John Cato, and after graduating lived in Japan where he took photos and became immersed in the world of Japanese gardens and bonsai from 1983-4. Köller has held solo exhibitions of his photographs, installations and video works in various Australian cities and in Japan, England, Spain and Mexico. His work has been included in group-exhibitions in France, Italy, Spain, and throughout Australia.
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