Category Archives: Exhibition Visits

Brighton Photo Biennial Tour 27th October 2018

The eighth Brighton Photo Biennial drew on the UK’s current immersion in the geopolitics of the ongoing Brexit negotiations which have dominated the mass media and thus people’s thoughts, beliefs and feelings since the Referendum in June 2016.

Much of the photography in Brighton in Brighton Photo Biennial 2018 responds to this current uncertainy.  Visitors are invited to examine Britain’s geography as an island: simultaneously divided and connected. They can also reflect on the ongoing refugee crisis and photography’s role in the construction of national identity.       (Photoworks 2018)

We had a very busy itinerary for Day Two with a guided tour around the curated shows. Our group met tutors Jayne Taylor and Gina Lundy at the University Gallery in Edward Street, and were then introduced to Julia and Lisa from Photoworks who would be with us as guides for the rest of the day.  This was an excellent idea as it gave Jayne and Gina the time to interact with us as a group and discuss the various Exhibitions we visited across Brighton.

As previously, I’m focussing this blog post on Exhibitions which particularly struck me.

Émeric Lhuisset

L’Autre Rive

Émeric Lhuisset grew up in suburban Paris. He graduated in both Arts and Geopolitics and considers his work as “an artistic transcription of geopolitical analyses”.This project L’Autre Rive is a tribute to my friend, Foad, who disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach Europe. The work is comprised a collection of cyanotype prints which are progressively disappearing as they are exposed to sunlight”.

In the video below he explains how shocked he has been by the way in which refugees are represented by populists such as the extreme right and he feels it is his responsibility to fight against this. Many of his friends are on the refugee route – some arriving in Europe, others vanishing.  He follows their journeys through selfies and messages but his friend, Foad, never arrived and this project is a tribute to him.

Lhuisset decided to meet his refuge friends in Europe and photography their everyday life – the banal pictures which “….can be your life; the life of anybody”. The pictures were then printed through the cyanotype process, an old method which creates images in blue monochrome.  For him this monochrome is a metaphor for the colours of Europe and the sea where some people disappear.  Usually cyanotypes are ‘fixed’ through a rinsing process but he left his cyanotypes ‘unfixed’ which means they are progressively disappearing as they are exposed to day/sunlight – just as many on the refugee routes disappear.

As Lhuisset talks in the video above (presumably filmed early in the Exhibition) you can see the cyanotype prints behind him  Usually, if cyanotypes are left ‘unfixed’ they gradually fade in the light – yet, by the time we saw them his cyanotype had darkened over the time they were exhibited in the gallery. (You can see some of them in the photograph I took when we were listening to the talk by Lisa, Photoworks). Some of us spent quite some time discussing how this could be and wondering whether he had introduced some other process. I carried out some experiments myself when I returned home and will write about these in a later post .

I think his concept certainly complements his theme but felt concerned that the importance and tragedy of the situation he portrays can be dissipated somehow by too much wondering on how the technique works – style taking on too much importance over content.  However, I was struck by the thought of ‘Time’ – how it changes everything and nothing stays the same despite our desires to hold it fast, to fix it in a photograph, to stay in an unsafe place because it is “Home’.

Tereza Cervenova

June  

“…exploring how meanings of home and plans for the future are now shaken and in limbo”

Tereza Cervenova was born in Bratislava, Slovakia and moved to London. She  travelled around Europe to create this series which is an autobiographical response in 2011 to the June 2016 Brexit referendum.  She discusses the series here 

At first she had thought the series seemed disjointed but then she realised the connections with dates of various events and how they could affect people in her situation. The work was presented as unframed images on walls; loose booklets by different dates, on a plinth and available to be looked through; bound by rings and also in a glass-topped display case, alongside their enfolding slipcase, made from a deep-blue velvety textured cloth.

Her aim was to use the work as a voice, to give it a physicality, and to use the structure of the theme as a ground for a conversation. What,  I took from this series was this sense of people living their lives in infinite variety whilst events unfolded elsewhere which could have an enormous impact on their lives.

From the University Gallery we moved on to view several other Exhibitions around Brighton. – stopping off for a photoshoot on the beach along the way – and finally ended up at 23, Dukes Lane to see an Exhibition installation of the work of Hrair Sarkissian.

Hrair Sarkissian

As a young teenager in school, this Syrian photographer witnessed a public execution in Damascus – a common sight before the Civil War broke out. The memory of what he saw drove him as an adult to photograph squares where execution had taken place. He now lives in London.

In 2014 Hrair Sarkissian began to create his first two-channel video Homesick  .  He recreated and destroyed an architecturally accurate scale model of the apartment building in Damascus where his parents still lived, having refused to leave Syria. He asked his father to photograph the façade of the actual building and then worked with an architect to build the model over a period of a month. This building represents more than just a house – it acts as a representative for sense of belonging, container for memories and a place for the collective memory of his family.  In destroying its model he attempted to regain some control over what was happening, the destruction and fear for the future; asking the question “Can we fast-forward the present and acknowledge loss and begin reshaping a collapsed history before the event?”.

The first project of the video shows the demolition of the model, without sound, in various stages of damage leading up to a pile of rubble. The second projection, with sound, shows Sarkissian taking a sledgehammer to the model which sits off-screen.  You can see the emotion on his face as he wields the sledgehammer; the sweat pouring off him and his increasing exhaustion.

 

Watching the video installation had a powerful effect on me as I identified with the grief he expressed over the destruction overshadowing his homeland and circling around his parents. Will this conflict ever end so that people can re-build their lives?  An article here begins with a quote from Edward Saïd, Reflections on Exile(2002)which I think is so relevant:-

Exile is predicated on the existence of, love for, and bond with, one’s native place; what is true of all exile is not that home and love of home are lost, but that loss is inherent in the very existence of both.

Gathering up some of the threads

I was particularly struck by the way in which these artists acted as a ‘voice’ for themselves and others who have been affected by this “Brexit” fiasco which seems to be unending.  I’m imagining that even though it may not happen they may never feel the same about this Country that they might have seen as a safe haven. The cracks occurring on our democratic veneer have revealed what can lie underneath (as it has in some other EU member States).  On the one hand there’s the sense of people carrying on with their everyday lives whilst, on the other hand, there are others who are having to come to terms with the loss of a safe homeland and culture that is unable to sustain them.

 

 

References

http://hrairsarkissian.com

http://hrairsarkissian.com/work/homesick/

http://terezacervenova.com

https://photoworks.org.uk/watch-brighton-photo-biennial-artist-emeric-lhuisset

https://photoworks.org.uk/watch-brighton-photo-biennial-artist-tereza-cervenova/

https://universes.art/en/nafas/articles/2015/hrair-sarkissian/

https://www.emericlhuisset.com

 

 

 

 

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“Over Hills and Seas”: Tim Andrews – 26th October 2018

Tim Andrews, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2005, at the age of 54.  He was working as a solicitor at the time.

“Having PD mean that I was able to retire and being able to retire meant that I could do all the things I wanted to do but never had the time i.e. watch cricket, go to the cinema and go out and have a coffee and do the crossword. As it happened, these things were not enough as they were all solitary experiences and I missed the daily, hourly contact with other human beings. So, when my photographic project came along, off I went into to the stratosphere.” (online blogpost 25thFebruary 2016)  

His self-instigated project  began in 2007 after he responded to an advertisement in “Time Out” magazine looking for 100 people to pose naked for a new book by photographer Graeme Montgomery .  Within the next two weeks there were further requests listed from two other photographers so he responded to those as well. In 2008, he discovered that Graeme Montgomery was advertising on Gumtree and whilst searching for photography he found a lot of people, mainly students, looking for people to photograph. Thus, his project really began.  In total, from 2007 to 2016, Tim was photographed by 425 photographers and he brought his project Over the Hill to an end in 2016 wanting it “…to be complete, to put it into a box, tie it with ribbon and place it on a shelf so that, every so often I could take it down and look inside and marvel at all the great times I had with these wonderful photographers”.

Tim took the box down this year however having decided to present another exhibition of 32 photographic works from both the project and subsequently, with the theme of Landscape (including Seascape) – the purpose being to examine how these photographers changed their approach to photograph Tim.  Here’s a view of it – be aware it’s marked “Mature” :-

 

 

Tutor Jayne Taylor had organised for us to meet with Tim Andrews, after the Exhibition at the Regency Town House closed for the day, for a guided introduction.  I experienced him as a very engaging speaker, full of anecdotes about his experiences with the various photographers and obviously immersed in his project and enjoying being in front of the camera and having attention.  I’ve always enjoyed watching Gareth Malone, the English choirmaster and broadcaster giving a singing voice to people who never thought they had one but gave it a try anyway. Gareth Malone describes himself as an “animateur” and I think that term perfectly describes Tim Andrews in the way he contacted his potential photographers; directing proceedings (often collaboratively); posed in all weathers; starred in the theatre of his performance and collected and curated this Exhibition which is all about himself. His enthusiasm and energy would be impressive in even a fit, young man.

The theme of nudity does crop up quite often so I was surprised to read In an interview with Vice.com magazine (pub. 4thAugust 2016)  that the percentage of nude photographs of Tim is less than 20 percent. Maybe he chose a higher proportion for this Exhibition; I was more aware of them just because he was nude or because he spent quite a while standing talking to us in front of a photograph of himself nude, painted blue all-over and wearing a turban  – the photographer being Karen Knorr.

What did I gain from the talk and the Exhibition?

I was reminded of Isabelle Mège (who I read about in a blog post by my student colleague Sarah-Jane Field  a medical secretary in Paris who, over two decades, persuaded many renowned photographers (mostly male) to take a photograph of her with an initial request of,  “I would like to see myself from your point of view”.  Mège amassed a large collection of photographs, in a large variety of styles, not all of which could be called portraits, but they all depicted her body. In 2016 Anna Heyward of The New Yorker interviewed one of the photographers, Fouad Elkoury who had photographed Mège in 2002. He told Anna Heyward that he had agreed to Mège’s request because, “I could tell this project came from an obsessive mind, this strange project of being photographed by photographers she liked—not those she thought were famous, but those she liked.” He was taken aback when they met. “She was veryordinary, a very normal-seeming person. I had thought, based on her letter, that she might be unusual.”

The philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy wrote in an email to Anne Heyward that the key to understanding Mege’s work was that it was an act that made her an artist of some sort; one whose medium is other artists He invented new words to describe this “It’s a selfothermade ….. not an auto-portrait…. But it’s not an alloportrait either”.  Somehow this takes it beyond notions of the male/female gaze into another realm – a work created through some kind of projective identification between subject (initiator) and artist. There is a video about her on YouTube but I won’t give the link here as it contains a fair amount of nude photography.

Returning to Tim Andrews and his Exhibition – I was very impressed to see so many different versions of Tim by so many photographers, although I would need to do much more research on them all to gain a sense of how much was their own way of working anyway and how much they were responding to Tim ‘in the moment’.  My favourite photograph overall was the one of Tim wearing his grandmother’s dress (also exhibited) from 1904 – shot by photographer Clare Park. There was something very poignant about it for me with his wistful, painted face as he holds the golden dress against him.

The series that attracted me was

A section of a larger piece by Tina Rowe Sixty Minutes (2015)

Tim wrote of being ‘hooked’ by Tina’s work after seeing it in a Photomonth brochure in 2014 and so he wrote her a message asking her to photograph him, “What she didn’t know was that it wasn’t purely portraiture I was after. I wanted to be in a photograph taken by her. I liked the way her mind worked.  In particular, I liked her series ‘My Mother’s House” as I very much identified with this having made a documentary about my own mother’s house a few years ago.”

Tina writes about the session here .  She had intended to use a wide angle pinhole camera with camera flashes for a particular effect before she met him, “…but when he walked into my studio I realised that he isn’t the sort of person who should be summed up in a single shot …..I had looked at the work of other photographers in his project and there was a wealth of different interpretations of him as a human and as a canvas.  They didn’t really help because they are all so different. Just talking to him made me drop the one idea and pursue the other”.

So, there we have the two different types of personal alchemy resulting in the series created through joint authorship. The photographs were taken with a hasselblad camera and using a pack of fuji instant film.  The emulsion was then lifted from the instant film and placed on oak blocks. Reflecting on the whole process, Tim wrote in second blog post at that time “I love the fact that these are so delicate and are not digitised”.    I agree with him very much.  There’s something about those small vignettes, taken in the moment, catching him in various poses.  The wooden blocks look a bit battered now – perhaps grown into the metaphor of his life – but their oak remains stout.

 

References

Heyward, H.A. the Opposite of a Muse (2016) The New Yorker 17.9.2016 (accessed at https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-opposite-of-a-muse28.11.2018)
http://timandrewsoverthehill.blogspot.com

https://timandrewsoverthehill.blogspot.com/2015/05/ten-into-sixty-tina-rowe-part-one.html
https://timandrewsoverthehill.blogspot.com/2015/09/60-minutes-by-tina-rowe-part-two.html
http://tinarowe.co.uk/portfolio/objects/60-minutes-with-tim-andrews/
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/jmkmg7/parkinsons-over-the-hill-tim-andrews

 

Phoenix Brighton: 26th October 2018

 

Collaboration and collective working are the core aims of Brighton Photo Fringe   and, in all, they presented eight Collectives this year, selected from open submissions and showcasing new photography in all its forms.

 

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  1. An afternoon at Phoenix, Brighton. 

I arrived slightly late for the meet-up at Phoenix, Brighton, due to having got lost and driving round in circles trying to find my hotel.  This meant that my attention was scattered once I did arrive – looking around to see who I recognised and for some familiar faces whilst trying to key in to the works that were being discussed, but my attention was caught by this

Zoe Sim

Friston Forest Glitch – Exhibited in the Artefactcollection which comprised work by artists from Metro Imaging’s Mentorship Programme in addition to Metro’s own team.

Zoe uses infrared photography to oversaturate landscapes into pink worlds, believing that “…the aesthetics of pink can trigger contradictory emotions because pink is associated with many politically charged stereotypes. Zoe’s use of pink connotes a futuristic environment where technology is beginning to seep into nature, whereas I used near-infrared in Assignment 1 to signify what we are unable to see in the world with our normal vision. Furthermore, Zoe also uses asymmetric and jagged shapes to add to the surreal and ‘uncanny’ effect of her sublime. There is an interesting article here about some earlier work where she used pink in a different way to create a more dream-like world and critique female objectification by mimicking classical poses from paintings – I was reminded here of the work of June Calypso and her use of pink.

Now feeling more ‘at home” I went off to explore the other rooms.

Glen Turner

Rose (2018)

Glen Turner, a mixed-media artist, was exhibiting with the Ontic Collective  – a collective of lens-based artists working in Brighton. who aimed to present “a wider joint narrative about artistic practice post digital revolution ”

His series information states

In this series I have merged 3 elements resulting as the 4thelement.  The 2 photographic layers were made by winding back an analogue film and retaking the next layer, creating random compositions. Roses from Preston park, layered with a familiar suburban and industrial walk, with a textured traced layer from a plastic Braille map of England leaving a gold/graphite layer upon the surface, make up the total form of the images.

 David Cundy

Also exhibiting as part of the Ontic Collective.

 

 

An installation of framed prints on the wall and small images on top of variously sized ‘blocks’ arranged on a plinth. The narrative behind the presentation of these pinhole photographs concerns the execution of Lady Jane Grey in 1554 (see also)  She was beheaded on Tower Green and the ground keepers at her home are said to have marked the occasion by pollarding the oak trees on the estate in a symbolic beheading.  A chilling event and a very effective presentation.

Although this work does not appear on David Cundy’s website it does on his Instagram feed .  Whilst looking at his website I also took note of his use of image and handwritten text.

 Creative Storm

Curate with us.

A collective pod comprising two different exhibitions where two artists each brought a developed body of work and, over an afternoon, attendees discussed and contributed to the decision making in curating and installing work.

This was the outcome of one of the events.  I liked the idea of such an interactive event and a way of involving viewers in the work. I think it was the work of Tom Heatley as I recognise the roof and chimney pots.

New Grounds Collective

This collective invited viewers to, “a space where we speculate and delve into the ‘conjectural’ facts regarding the fluctuation of the natural, urban and cultural environments.

Idil Bozkurt

 

Deconstruction with Walter in Gallerio Umberto I(2018)

This is a representation of a shopping arcade in Naples, built between  1887-1891, designed by Emanuele Rocco and named for Umberto I, the then King of Italy.

It’s a one-off Installation piece – suspended transparent prints on a frame-based substrate I found it fascinating and had to keep going back to have a look at it.  Peering through the stacked translucent layers, trying to work out how it was done and admiring the 3D effect. Also for sale at £10,000 in Phoenix Brighton online shop I’ve just discovered.

I talked with fellow-student Karen Gregory about this installation and she said she’d created something like that which she has – see here

I think it’s a very effective and different way of representing depth in an urban landscape.

London Alternative Photography Collective

Their show brought together artists who ‘point’ their cameras at the sun and included alternative processes such as pinhole solargraphy, lunar photography, motor-controlled time-lapse and chemograms. It was good to see work displayed by many of the photographers I already follow on Instagram.

 

I was so busy discussing this installation with Karen and acquiring  very useful information on how to create pinhole images that I forgot to check the name of the photographer, which is really annoying. I think it’s from Pauline Woolley  Large versions of pinhole images on the wall and a display of the cans that held the photopaper. I am now collecting cans to use as containers!

MAP6 Collective

A group of nine photographers who work together to make new work about the complex relationship between people and place.

The Shetland Project

On this occasion they worked in the Shetland Islands for six days and I think the work produced is a wonderful example of the way in which collaborative projects can work – exploring the same place/location yet producing individual and distinctive interpretations of it.  It’s the kind of project I would very much like to be involved with one day.

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This was a full afternoon with so much to see and absorb and I took much away with me about the nature of collaborative work presentation/installation and alternative processes. Still a late afternoon/early evening  visit to come with a walk to The Regency Town House, Hove to see Tim Andrew’s Exhibition Over Hills and Seas, with a personal guided introduction by him.

 

 

References

https://glenturner.myportfolio.com/roses-1

https://newgroundsuk.wixsite.com/newgrounds

https://www.cundy.net/projects

https://www.instagram.com/creativestormbrighton/

https://www.instagram.com/map6collective/

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo4OHrCl8uo/

https://www.instagram.com/photofringe/

http://www.map6.co.uk

http://www.map6.co.uk/the-shetland-project

https://www.ontic.photography

http://www.pinkthingsmag.com/photo/infrared-venus

https://www.tomheatley.co.uk/there-we-have-it#7

 

 

5. OCA Showcase at Oxo Gallery, London: October 2018

 

SHOWCASE was an Exhibition of work by Foundation, Under- and postgraduate students to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the Open College of the Arts.  The Exhibition – held at the Oxo Gallery, London, from 24th to 28th October 2018 –  also marked the launch of JUICE (the journal of Useful Investigations in Creative Education) which is a collaboration between the University of the Creative Arts and OCA.  JUICE is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal which contains a multi-media collection of material and you can read more about it here 

I was determined to get there on the first day of the SHOWCASE Exhibition despite the chaos caused by the combination SW Rail strike and a signals failure – and was very pleased to be their second visitor.

Overall impression

The Oxo Gallery   is in a busy tourist area so has the prospect of inviting many visitors. However, at first I thought it was an empty shop, waiting to be set-up, and almost walked past as the front display space looked quite bare. A good idea to have the OCA Timeline around the walls but I think that would have been better placed in the area at the back of the building.  The concept of “Showcase” was the most important for me – to celebrate the multi-dimensional, creative work of so many distance learning students.

I had been expecting to see artwork and photographs spread around the walls and to see small sculptures as well as be able to handle sketch books, photobooks and textiles, read and listen to poetry and music. That’s what I was wanting to see and to feel proud of belonging to a group of so many creative people who inspire and support me.

High points

Being met by the three smiling invigilators, Stefan, Johnathan and Sarah-Jane and then talking with Eddie from OCA office.

I enjoyed having the opportunity to see work that, up to then, I’d only seen on-line; to be able to handle the small sketch books and photo-books which were on the shelves along one wall; peer through the glass display cabinets at small prints; see video work on a larger screen than just my computer or laptop and talk with some of my fellow students about their work.  Below is a small selection:

 

Stefan Schaffeld’s object-box was very inviting but it took me a while to accept his invitation to ‘unpack’ it. I was surprised what came up for me about making a mess of things and wanting to make sure that everything was put back in its proper place.

How can I use this experience?

I’m asking myself this due to being co-curator of the Exhibition being held by some of the members of the Thames Valley Group in February 2019.  I enjoyed being able to handle and look at small sketch books and photo books and interact with Stefan’s object-box. It was also good to see video/film work projected on the walls at a larger size than on a computer.  However, it felt odd not to see photographs, paintings, sketches, drawings on the walls.  It could be that I’m just pre-conditioned to expect that in a gallery and sometimes the size of a gallery dictates what can be exhibited and how. A large gallery with separate spaces can offer more scope than just one room (which is what we will have in what is a fairly large gallery and well-known gallery in a busy Town). I certainly hope that Thames Valley Group will expand exponentially to include even more members from the other Art disciplines as I’m increasingly attracted by the idea of having larger multi-media Exhibitions.

I hope that the OCA Student Site will show some videos and/or photographs of the Exhibition and the Private View.  If you’ve been and read my review here please do leave a note of your own blog post on the visit.

I subscribe to JUICE  now as well and one of the earliest articles is by OCA tutor Doug Burton who writes about ‘the benefits of time and distance in the delivery of HE at the Open College of the Arts’ and I really identified with his description of ‘slow creativity’

 

About JUICE
https://www.oxotower.co.uk/venue/galleryoxo/

 

 

Performer and Participant: Tate Modern 8th October 2018

This Display space invites viewers to discover how artists working between the 1960s and the 1990s opened up new spaces for participation. At its core is individual and collective action – artist directed or as political activism – and in different forms – a proposal for action, recording an event or artwork being activated by the use of viewers’ bodies. I walked around  with fellow students Gesa and Sarah-Jane and the Exhibition below particularly interested me:-

Ana Lupas

The Solemn Process  1964 -2008 . . A long term Project that began as a traditional ritual involving communal craft work in rural Romania and ended with the ‘relics’ of the work being sealed in metal ‘tins’ as a form of presentation.

My understanding is that Lupas utilised an already existing activity – the weaving of wreaths for harvest festivals, and transformed this into a performative, artistic activity whose main purpose was the making of the structures themselves rather than for a celebrative ritual based on long tradtion. Lupas defined her role as ‘a bridge between the ancestral and the future’ in that although the original structures might gradually decay, the artwork itself would remain as the process continued and new participants were drawn in. the work continued in phases but economic and social changes in Romania eventually made it difficult for participants to continue so the straw structures became relics. Lupas tried to preserve the structures by restoring then drawing them but in the early 2000s she developed a practical technique of sealing them in metal ‘tins’ and a way of combining the natural and ‘traditional’ wreaths with modern/industrial techniques.

 

I found a link here that provides more information on this and another project which ran alongside (although beginning later).  I don’t know why but, for some reason I began to wonder about finance – was this a commission, did the local people also receive payment for their artistic efforts?

There were two other aspects of interest for me which linked with other artistic projects based in the landscape and/or natural processes.

So far as the wreaths were/are concerned their only purpose lies in being ‘art’ products – unlike sheaves of wheat which are dried then threshed to separate the grain from the stems which then become straw and used for other purposes such as animal bedding or providing an energy source. On the other hand an artistic project such as Phytology (which I wrote about here )  provides herbs for people to use; has an educational aspect; a space for other artists to create new work and enables the continuation of the site as a community garden. The use of wheat also reminded me of the artist Faye Claridge and her Fern Baby (2015) which I wrote about here   a huge corn doll created as part of Claridge’s response to some of the photographs in the  Benjamin Stone Collection, held in the Library of Birmingham, and her collaboration with young people to re-interpret customs using artefacts from the Marton Museum of Country Bygones.

This led me on to further questions around the nature of art. Why is it that I would see sheaves of wheat in a field and think, “Oh, it’s harvest time again”, yet go to a museum or art gallery and it becomes ‘Art’? Similarly, in respect of a garden. A garden produces vegetables, herbs, flowers etc and might be beautiful to look at but how often do I consider it as the ‘art’ of the gardener; yet it can become an artistic project.  I also read an interesting piece here on the opening of the Switch House in the Tate Modern  in 2016 and the opening of the New “Performer and Participant” Gallery. Bryony White comments on this work of Ana Lupas as a metaphor for the relationship between performance and the museum:

Lupas’s process seemed to ask the same questions that performance historians, curators  and artists have been asking for many years: ‘how do we preserve this’? How do we put a frame around these potentially (and not necessarily de facto) unstable objects’? How do we continue to resuscitate or give life to actions’?

The question, “Why should we and if so by what criteria” isn’t asked.

 

Tacita Dean and Landscape

Thoughts on a book, videos and an Exhibition visit.

I have the book “Tacita Dean:  Landscape, Portrait, Still life (2018) which is the information-filled catalogue for the three concurrent exhibitions of Dean’s work shown in London during 2018 at different locations. The book is full of photographs and commentaries from Dean and others – something I want to keep dipping into, so this post is going to be an evolving one as I add thoughts, reflections and information. At the beginning of the book (p.9) Dean makes what to me is an important point about genres in art.  Writing about  Paul Nash’s watercolour “Cumulus” she asks, “A portrait, a landscape and a still life”, explores this using examples from her own work too and then goes on to remark, “I have continually found ways to both confound and confirm this categorisation by genre but am grateful to it nonetheless for the structure it gave to this museum collaboration”.  Dean gives an example about her postcard collection and how trying to sort and catalogue this by image for later recollection:

“…… is not dissimilar to appraising one’s work in relation to genres. It goes well until you come across an anomaly, and the anomaly makes you create a new description and a new category, and it goes well again until the next anomaly and the next category and so on and so forth …..

I can so much identify with that  and was also reminded of Exercise 1.2  and the points made by Rosalind Krauss re archaeological examination of the photographic archive and the attempt to dismantle and reassemble it within the categories previously constituted by art and its history.

I also watched a BBC One programme episode of the series “Imagine” – “Summer 2018: 1. Tacita Dean: Looking to See”. the documentary was based on Alan Yentob talking with her in her studio  in Berlin,  visiting her in Los Angeles where she was completing her film “Antigone” and talking with others about her.  I learned that her grandfather, Basil Dean, who founded Ealing Studios was interested in colour and location filmography and that he abandoned all his children. Tacita Dean herself  is one of three, her childhood was slightly eccentric and isolated.  Collecting became a passion for her. She kept searching for four-leaf clovers as a child and usually finds one now when walking – in a perpetual data of waiting and looking, and also has collections of round rocks, found postcards and photographs. She always wanted to be an artist and refused her father’s wish that she read English at University. Although she grew up in the YBA (Young British Artists) age she was never quite in their gang because her work didn’t quite fit.

Tacita Dean is inspired by analogue film and her subject matter is ostensibly modest. An example is Michael Hamburger 2007 – a man in his house talking about apples. Dean lets the camera roll on the subjects who forget she is there. Her work is slow and some critics say it’s boring.  Dean talked about what comes when you wait – like a rotating tower you go round and round and come back into the future. What I noticed was her use of frames within frames – as if we are always looking through a window.  The documentary itself was fairly slow, leaving spaces between the sentences. I found her quite beguiling – the rhythm and clarity of her voice, with a suggestion that she’s smiling inside; her face movements and her strong physical presence. I was surprised to read in an article in the Guardian (March 2018)  that she has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for the past twenty-five years and walks with some difficulty.

In the Tate video below Tacita Dean begins by talking about her film “Green Ray” – the last ray of the sun as it sets and then talks about using film and her response (2011) to the challenge of filling Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. I’m posting it here as a reference for myself.

Landscape Exhibition at the Royal Academy 19thMay to 12thAugust 2018

Opening the information booklet I immediately identified with this paragraph:-

On an individual level, landscape is biographical: ‘Place’ is to landscape as ‘identity’ is to portraiture.  We inhabit this sensory, dynamic medium with our bodies and minds: when we experience or remember landscapes, touch, smell and sound are as important as sight. We also bring to bear pictures, poems and films of landscapes which frame and layer our immediate perceptions. Landscapes are temporarily complex: they work on us with the potent forces of familiarity and strangeness, reality and imagination.

The Exhibition took up two large rooms plus the cinema space where her film “Antigone’ was running at hourly intervals. Enormous panels of Blackboard Drawings – made with chalk to create, erase and re-create shadow, shape, form and depth. The sea, clouds mountains, some with writing on them that was hard to read.  I noticed the use of sections – often in threes. She seems to enlarge the detail of objects that seem indistinct, such as fluffy clouds. The oak tree Majesty was so large it was also in sections.  I’m presuming it is formed from photographs of several trees – hand-printed photographs and then Dean hand-painted around every branch with a small gauge paintbrush using white gouache paint, “delighting in my proximity to even the tiniest and most inaccessible of branches on these mighty trees.

There’s a simplicity of approach (I honestly did keep thinking “well I might be able to do that”) combined with creating work on a monumental scale. I think I was somehow identifying with a child-like wonder at the nature of things. A vitrine held some of the large stones from Dean’s Round Stone Collection, which reminded me of the way in which my sons and grandsons collected and filled their trouser pockets with ‘interesting’ pebbles and other small objects whilst we were out walking.  In the second room further vitrines hold a part of her four, five, six, seven and nine.  I’m not sure she counted properly to be honest, but the arrangement of stems swirling around leaves fascinated me with their delicacy (the BBC One video shows her carefully arranging them using a pair of tweezers) and I wanted to go out and find some to experiment. It made me remember searching for four-leaf clovers when I was small – well, maybe a bit older as well; not to mention the daisy chains.

 

I was intrigued by the film Antigone. The film itself is quite slow-moving, with soft, earthy colours – two frames/screens side-by side, often with one still whilst the other is moving.  When I heard Tacita Dean talking about Antigone in the BBC episode I had immediately thought about fathers and children, particularly daughters (bearing in mind what was said about her father and grandfather). I also wondered about the link with her older sister, who is called Antigone, and that the film is a tribute to her, especially given the story of Antigone who was both daughter and sister to Oedipus. Dean writes about this in the book (pp.91) and how she wondered how her father could give his daughter such a name. She once asked him – his answer being that Antigone was the first feminist, “….. an answer that I didn’t expect, especially as it came from the mouth of a man who had penned me a letter whilst I was at art school calling feminism the ‘anorexia nervosa of the West”. It seems that Dean was fascinated by the story of Oedipus from an early stage, beginning at art school. In the film the story of Oedipus and his eventual self-blinding is linked with an eclipse which is a wonderful filmic metaphor that also turned my thoughts towards “The Sublime”. Dean’s description of the making of the film and her own responses really illustrates the creative process and how it can impact upon the creator.

As I wrote at the beginning, this is an evolving post as I add further information and reflections.

 

Andreas Gursky at the Hayward Gallery – 16th April 2018

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 The first Exhibition in the newly refurbished Hayward Gallery and such an appropriate one for those very large prints in the majestic concrete space which I think I only appreciated when I saw the staircase.

This video, presented by Ralph Rugoff, provides an excellent summary of Gursky’s oeuvre – the size, the detail which remains hidden until you step up to have a closer look to scan them, after needing to stand back to take it all in. As Rugoff says, Gursky, is interested in how people collectively construct their behaviour and “… gives us an entire world in one picture so you can understand how the system works”, playing with all the different traditions of photography and painting.

His early photographs were smaller in scale but switching to digital enabled him to produce large format images and manipulate them in post-production, which then led to him documenting the key themes that overarch our lives today, producing them in limited editions small in number and, of course, making a lot of money.

An article in the NY Times in January this year had a heading “Andreas Gursky Is Taking Photos of Things That Do Not Exist – digitally created scenes and spaces. For instance, one where German Chancellor Angela Merkel and there three predecessors sit in an orderly row, as if pictured through a window, and are gazing at an abstract painting on the wall in front of them. I was fascinated how the viewers in the Gallery itself somehow became part of a greater picture in front of that image and others.

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I have to admit that there was such a variety of approach that although I initially felt sceptical about his work I quickly became drawn- in to the detail in some of the images, scanning to look for repetitions as with 99Cent 1999 – a stitching together of multiple images taken in a store in Los Angeles.

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I also appreciated the abstract qualities of some of them – layers of sky, sea, rubbish-laden grass verge and Spanish road in El Ejido , 2017

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and also the way in which photographs were taken aerially from a helicopter of Bahrain International Circuit, digitally manipulated and then composed into an abstracted crop of elements of the circuit.

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I was minded of the work of Jeff Wall in some respects in terms of the layers, composites and scale so was interested to read an interview of Gursky by Wall (included on Gursky’s website). Wall asks Gursky about his memories of childhood; his father’s photographic studio and business and then Gursky talks of his time at art school, referring to Bernd Becher’s stringent use of composition and stylistic features – well-balanced, shadowless light, centred perspective, distance and crop. The influence is there to be seen.

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