"A place is like a body. Through the process of examination one will find that it contains all the stories, contradictions and ecosystems of being."
Unseen Platform: Why are you continuously drawn to the Okavango Delta to make create work?
Chloe Sells: My husband lived in Maun, which is a village bordering the Okavango Delta in the northwest corner of Botswana. I went there as a tourist, but instead of passing through, I fell in love with him and stayed. I have been there for nearly twenty years and it is my home. It is a home that I feel I am of, but not from. I have learned its contours through picturing and tracing them in the dark and in the light, by photographic representation overlaid with imagination.
What importance do the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans have to the work?
A place is like a body. Through the process of examination one will find that it contains all the stories, contradictions and ecosystems of being. This series of work continues my exploration of the simple yet overwhelming landscape of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botswana. The Salt Pans are an albino birthmark in the heart of the Kalahari Desert; there is no arboreal green, there is no azure water, there is no earthy, brown soil. It is wildly empty. But life does exist there in abundance; at certain times of the year it looks like the end of the world, while at others it looks like a vast ocean.
Your works are very dreamlike; colourful, patterned and meandering…they verge on the psychedelic. Is this a conscious direction?
The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in their stark emptiness create space for visions, dreams and hallucinations. The more you stay focused on the horizon the quieter your internal chatter becomes and as the stillness encroaches the sound of silence becomes louder and louder. These are the stories that have come to me while contemplating this landscape.
How do you make your work?
I use a large format Linhof camera and then print my work in a colour darkroom in London. Once in the darkroom a process of amalgamation takes place where I marry what it is that I’ve seen and what it is that I’m feeling into a single picture. Each of the pictures is the result of in-depth manipulation and spontaneous experimentation with light during the printing process. Beyond my darkroom interventions, I draw and paint on some works. The layers I create in the darkroom and through mark making represent our constantly shifting realities. No two pieces are ever the same.