The unfocused in art has a long history dating back to the Renaissance and inseparable from the witnessing of natural phenomena. Environment, darkness and fog take us into the diffuse and secretive. In traditional photography textbooks, focus was deemed most valuable and, until the emergence of automatic cameras, made taking photographs visibly difficult for amateurs. Thus, the production of out of focus photographs did not begin it’s triumphal procession as an art form until the last 20 years of the 20th century, with the exception of a brief stint in post-impressionist 1900. One may ask if the differentiation between focus and unfocused qualifies as a stylistic criteria. Let’s say that the variety of the artist who experiments with unfocused photography, is similarly comparable to that of the photographer who is committed to focused pictures.
Jens Nagels develops a very special acquaintance with the stylistic device of “unfocusing.” His career as a photographer was preceded by his painting studies in Düsseldorf. It is unmistakable that his photography, which as a rule does not reproduce nature but rather second hand reality through foreign color intensified visions, perpetuate his beginnings as a painter. As a gourmet sorts out his delicacies from what gushes out of of the television in his apartment: “ I am not a hunter, but rather a collector,” Nagels says. His two part work conveys the impression of the romantic and closure, the grains themselves lost in a logical color gradient, apparently striving to flow into each other in the assigned pictures, and simultaneously becoming quelled through the sharp edges of the picture border. The photographs live for a disoriented balance: limitation vs. liberation, traditional photographic images vs. pictorial photography, images vs. a denial of information. And that convesys itself to the viewer whose viewpoint ideally swings between the desire for concrete identification and the desire for free interpretation.
Dr. Boris von Brauchitsch