There is definitely something exciting, fresh, and inspiring about the work of an emerging artist. Emanuel Muntean’s Abjectography, which is a collection of photographic images, is an interesting and evocative series of work made by the fledgling, Moose Jaw-based artist.

This former film major has collected imagery dedicated to a broad series of transitioning objects caught in a web of decay. Almost every image contains a man-made object manifesting a losing battle with nature. Having outlived their usefulness or having been utterly forgotten, these objects are in a state of being that relates them to time but not utility or function. Typical images of this collection are intimate records of everything from rotting, frayed fabrics to dried, peeling paint and from discarded wood shavings to rusting metal. These are objects which, at the very core of their existence, are a manifestation of decay.

However, the emphasis of these photos is texture as much as it is time. For the greater part, these images capture a surface of reality that is rife with variance. This artist’s unbridled emphasis on texture evokes a strong curiosity about what that surface or object might actually feel like when touched. However, his emphasis on creating a “visual touch” is not without ambiguity. Almost the entire body of work Muntean has gathered into this series is a decontextualized surface or object that is given to a flamboyant emphasis on colors, details and or textures. If these images are anything, they are rich and lush. However, these images are, simultaneously, gritty and dirty. In effect, this creates an ambiguous relation between the viewer and the image. The overall result of his aesthetic is a push and pull of desire and repulsion. It is this fact that pervades the experience of seeing these images.

Since the artist provides these images without context, the viewer is challenged to find a measure of value for the details, textures, colors and nuances of these images. This need to find value is pushed by a specific aspect related to being decontextualized. The intense intimacy of the perspective point in these images – meaning their excess closeness to the object they present – provides a profound amount of information about the object and intensifies this problem for the viewer. The absence of context makes the viewer aware that they lack a paradigm by which to assess the abundance of information being presented. Together, the decontextualization of the image and the abundance of their information push for fundamental questions about the measure of their value.

The over-arching question asked by these images seems to be “What is the value of these objects?” Given that they have exceeded their usefulness and have fallen into neglect, Muntean seems to be specifically asking, “Is there no value for anything apart from its utility?” Clearly, his answer is yes.

Through this body of work, the promising artist is making an artistic commentary regarding his sense of something’s value. With the title, Abjectography, Muntean insinuates these objects to be abject. The means he assess them as being of very humble means and to be in a lowly state of hopelessness. In the act of photographing and displaying them, however, Muntean transforms them. In the act of photographing them, he changes them from objects of inattention to objects of consideration, from refuse to art, and from banal to important. By bring us into such close and imitate relation to these objects, the artist seems to be emphatically saying, “Look! Look closely! Aren’t they beautiful?” And, in this, he is suggesting the interesting and compelling notion that beauty can attract us to things that our obsession with utility blinds us to.

You can see Emanuel Muntean’s work on
Facebook under Objectography.

Ross Melanson

About Ross Melanson

He is a poet, visual artist, and independent scholar living in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. He is the Founding Editor of page51 – a website dedicated to exploring the relationship between art, culture, and philosophy. Read more →, or

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