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The Parallel World of the Infrared Spectrum


Picture a down-at-heel artist, toiling away for months to put together an exhibition, only to find that his work is misinterpreted. This is what has recently happened to me in relation to my infrared photography.

Feedback from those who have seen my infrared images ranges from “very pretty”, “sugar-coated” or “candyfloss pink”, to “poor Clive is now seeing the world through rose-tinted spectacles”! Don’t get me wrong, I am always pleased to be told that my work is beautiful, for that is what it is intended to be. However, far from simply being frivolous exercises in High Camp, my infrared photographs are intended as serious spiritual Art. Let me explain.

During my boyhood in rural Ireland in the 1970s, I struggled with the question that plagues every emerging artist early in their career. Where do I find my inspiration to create art? Then by chance one day, I found the answer to this question in the school library. While flicking through Civilization, the celebrated work on the history of art by Sir Kenneth Clarke, I read that all the great Art of the past, without exception, was inspired by spiritual sentiments.

I believed with absolute certainty back than, just as I do today, in the spiritual realm and so the idea of making religious art rather appealed to me. The trouble was, as photography was my preferred artistic medium, how the heck could I make religious photographs? Photographing staged scenes in which cherubim and angels appeared to float just above the heads of mere mortals seemed to me to be a rather outdated and overly literal way in which to represent the otherworldly reality.

Now as it happened, around that time in Physics lessons I was being bored senseless by the topic of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. On and on our physics teacher Dr O’Brian, aka Oby, droned about Gama Rays, X-Rays, Ultra Violet Light, the Visible Spectrum, the Infrared Spectrum, Radio Waves and all the rest of it. None of this interested me in the slightest until one day Oby momentarily stepped out of character and said something that made my ears prick up.

“We cannot see anything of the Electromagnetic spectrum outside our own little world of the Visible Spectrum, except with the help of technology,” Oby said, or words to that effect. Then came the revelation. “For example, although we cannot see infrared light with our eyes, there are photographic films that can record it.”

From that moment, it was my mission in life to get my hands on infrared film so that I could glimpse into that other realm of the Infrared Spectrum. And when I finally shot my first roll of Kodak HIE Infrared Film and I got the results back from a lab in Dublin, I realized that I had found my way to make art that paid homage to the spiritual realm.

Not that I was daft enough to believe that the ethereal, spooky and breathtakingly gorgeous parallel world of the Infrared Spectrum was the spiritual realm. But it struck me that as the infrared world existed, even though we could not see it with our eyes, then infrared photographs served as beautiful metaphors for the metaphysical world of spirit which I knew also existed, even though I could not see it with my eyes. Oh, the strange contortions of the adolescent artistic mind!

Infrared films went out of production in the early years of this century and for a time I had no option but to stop infrared photography. Then a couple of years ago, I read about a company in the USA that sold digital cameras modified to specification that could “see” other parts of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. So at huge expense I ordered one that could “see” parts of the Visible Spectrum and the Infrared Spectrum, producing weirdly coloured images. When it arrived at the beginning of last year, my passion for making infrared images was reborn.

Dear reader, I take this opportunity to invite you to come see my suite of infrared photographs titled Parallel World currently on display in Bait Muzna Gallery in Old Muscat. Then you can decide for yourself whether they are Spiritual Art or High Camp.

Insta @clivegracey

Insta @baitmuznaofficial

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