The Greeks, inevitably, have a word for it. Pareidolia is the phenomenon by which we attribute significance to random sounds or images. Most typically, it manifests itself in our ability to see faces in abstract patterns – Jesus burned into a round of toast perhaps, or the eyes, mouth and nose of a pair of taps and a sink overflow. Leonardo da Vinci noted the ability of artists to imagine images out of “any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones” while scientist Carl Sagan has argued that humans are somehow hard-wired to see human faces as a survival technique, no matter how indistinct.
For Graham Fink, pareidolia has been a constant since childhood. Over a career that has included music video and commercials direction as well as stints in some of London’s top ad agencies and which has now taken him to Shanghai as Ogilvy’s CCO in China, Fink has collected some 3,000 photographs of the ‘faces’ he has identified in random marks on walls, pavements and doors the world over.
A selection of these images will be on show at the Riflemaker gallery in London this month. They are no mere photographs, however. Because the images originated in the physical world, Fink says he wanted them to have some of that quality when reproduced. Experiments printing his images onto wood and concrete eventually led him to marble – pure white marble from the Greek island of Thassos, no less. Each image in the show has been printed directly onto 10mm thick slabs of the stone giving the work a lustre and depth of colour.
The show, Fink says “was a bit of an exorcism” in that he has finally been able to get these extraordinary and strangely beautiful images off his computer and out into the world.
Graham Fink: Nomads is at Riflemaker, Beak Street, London W1, riflemaker.org