"Tsunami" is a sequence of six photo-intaglio etchings based on photographs of a tsunami wave. The photos were taken by John and Jackie Knill, a Canadian couple, just minutes before the tsunami took their lives. The couple was apparently on the Khao Lak beach (Thailand) when the tsunami hit Dec. 26, 2004. Their digital camera was found, and though the camera was destroyed, searchers were able to recover the photos of the tsunami from its memory card.
The series of photographs taken by the Knills forms a compelling record/photo diary documenting the last minutes of their lives. The whole sequence from the first sight of the waves to them slamming into the beach is only five minutes long. The photographs were reprinted directly from the original source: torn pages from a Paris Match magazine, just as I found them.
Each among the images of the presented series consists of two parts: a photograph and deeply etched embossment/ relief of the copper plate. While working on the project I decided to use the etching medium: for me the process itself, where certain parts of the plate are erased, or washed out by the acid, evokes (or reflects) the idea of loss and disappearance, also memories and a particular form of immersion. The embossment – which is an extension and at the same time a kind of translation of the wave line seen in the photographic part of a print – is sometimes accompanied by pencil writing (another level or attempt of translation or description) of what has happened.
The narrative link and the strong presence of the photographic images has been replaced by the simple sequencing of the blank spaces of the embossed sections, which are representations of absence, disappearance, departing from time, but also tracing the line of the annihilating wave. Their co-presence constitutes the whole: the whole locating itself between the visible and the invisible, between the direct and deferred, between the object/event/real story/reality and process, between the image and the absence of the image, between memory and oblivion.
The co-existence of a photograph on one side and a blank relief on the other is also a representation of two parallel narratives: a documentary one, presenting a concrete, real story (actual event) which perished/ has been stopped and a kind of a timeless empty narrative that asks (or slightly suggests) what kind of narrative one would be left with after removing all the documentary/photographic content, leaving only an embossment, a blank negative – the representation which consists of the return of the absent or repressed into the here and now. Here the seascape is missing, as though erased by a destroying wave, and in place of its reproduction, vague and shadowy, is the image of the viewer himself – his or her own faint reflection, a substitute, a repression.