Michelle Bui’s photographs reflect the processes of accumulation, presentation, and eventual decay that mark our relationships to seemingly mundane items. Sensual and sensorial, her images point to the negotiation between our understanding of ourselves and the objects that we accumulate. In the same breath, they cause us to question our appetite for these objects, this excessive consumption, in the first place.
A series of larger-than-life photographic images meet at the intersection between still life and commercial photography. Bui intuitively arranges objects and ephemera, photographing them against acidly colourful backdrops: sprigs of baby’s breath are arranged sculpturally with inflated latex gloves atop a blue shag carpet; a bouquet of wilting anemones is hand-tied with oversized maroon plastic in front of orange vinyl. The appeal of these uncanny images is undeniable; the lure of Bui’s heightened colours and textures and the familiar visual language of commercial photography provoke desire before we fully comprehend the image, or even despite that comprehension.
Bui’s newest work is a continuation of her recent “wet-cooked” photographs – images that capture an arrested moment within a much longer process of material transformation. She intuits the membranous, porous, formless affinities between flower petals, pig’s bowels, stone fruits, latex gloves, and other banal objects that elude recognition. These materials are combined into sculptural assemblages which are then submerged in boiling water, fixed in gelatine, or crushed beneath the weight of a rolling pin. Printed in large-scale vinyl and subsequently plastered over the gallery walls like a billboard, the resulting images evoke the sight, smell, and sound of Bui’s alchemical processes. In a moment where the lion’s share of our visual interactions are mediated through screens, the sensory overwhelm of Bui’s images is simultaneously seductive and unsettling.