Category Archives: Exhibitions

Thomas Kellner – Fractured Architecture

Yesterday I met Kate 513284 at Lacock Abbey, for a catch up and to see Thomas Kellner’s exhibition called Fractured Architecture, Cubist Photographs, which is currently showing in the upstairs gallery. There is a short video here explaining his technique, but from a practical point of view, he re-images of well-known buildings by taking a series of images of the parts and putting them together. He does this by glueing his analogue negatives together to form a physical sequence, which he then make prints from. The whole process is initially like looking at the buildings through the reflection of a series of windows, but then you start to look closer and discover that the negatives are actually sequential, and so Kellner knew exactly the effect he wanted before he took a single shot.

At first glance, the images seem to fit into the genre of Cubist Decontstructivism, but Kellner has coined the phrase Radical Constructivism to describe his work, and he uses an artistic method he calls “visual analytical synthesis”. His aim is to take well-known viewpoints and reproduce them in a non-linear way – the way the eye flits around a view – rather than the basic two-dimensional view we are used to.

High res copies of most of the images we saw are shown in this Lenscratch article (2017) and a little more explanation of his technique is discussed here.

FL: You mention on your website that your work is all about playing with your viewers’ perceptions of what is real, landmarks that they consider to be constant and unchanging. Why is it that you think this is such an important message to spread?
“Kellner’s contact sheets give bodily form to our scattered, animated and animating act of viewing. In doing so, they reclaim the individual’s central position to the formation of image and building alike.” Pappas, Allison, MFA Houston in: Houston, we’ve had a problem! (The Hippo Collective, 2014)

One has to admire the precision and forethought that Killner uses to produce his work. It is startling and one inevitably gets drawn into thinking about how he made it. He says that initially he began nwith the idea of using a single 36 frame roll of film for each image, but that this has expanded now and he often uses two. For my own part, the image I liked best was one where he did not use the constraint of the rectangular format, but something a little looser in contruction.  IMG_3948v2

His work has echoes of that of Seung Hoon Park, David Hockney and Sarah Sense, both of whom I have reviewed before in Context & Narrative, but the techniques of deconstruction and reconstruction are all completely different. There’s plenty to think about in relation to my own work.

References

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lacock-abbey-fox-talbot-museum-and-village/features/fractured-architecture-cubist-photographs-by-thomas-kellner

http://lenscratch.com/2017/03/thomas-kellner/

http://www.mutantspace.com/thomas-kellner-photos-deconstructed-montages-iconic-structures/

https://www.thehippocollective.com/2014/10/20/thomas-kellner-interview/

https://susanspiritusgallery.com/artist/seung-hoon-park/

http://www.sarahsense.com/GalleryMain.asp?GalleryID=91121&AKey=L6DFM793

 

 

 

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Crewdson and Campany

Yesterday, my trusty wingman William and I visited two exhibitions in London –  Gregory Crewdson’s Cathedral of the Pines at the Photographers Gallery and David Campany’s A Handful of Dust at the Whitechapel Gallery.

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From Gregory Crewdson’s Cathedral in the Pines

The Crewdson exhibition, Cathedral of the Pines is currently occupying three of the four exhibition floor at the Photographers Gallery. (The fourth has a fun interactive exhibition on photographing food, where we spent an additional happy 15 minutes.) All the Crewdson images were framed identically at double A1 size and were spread out through the exhibition space to give each one room to breathe. Each was labelled with a blindingly obvious caption, such as Woman at Window, which really did not tell us much at all. Together, all the images form a three stranded story, focusing on 1) a middle aged woman, 2) an older man and young girl, whose relationship remains opaque, and 3) some young people. They are caught in moments of stillness, which Crewdson likens to paintings, and the images themselves have a very painterly texture. Much has been written about the series elsewhere (see references below), so I will concentrate on our own impressions of the work.

There is a very strong sense of place in the series, a connectedness between the different images. One gets the impression of a story only part told – vignettes from a bigger tale that is just outside the viewer’s understanding, but which is somehow chilling.  Various props appear and reappear throughout the series, such as boxes, glasses of water, strange holes in the walls and floors, and prescription bottles. There is a strong sense of the male gaze – the women are often unclothed, while the men only occasionally and most of them have their faces turned away from the camera. It seems to be a series about women but by a man, and the effect of the male gaze is to make the women seem very vulnerable. Each person is caught in a moment of utter stillness, as in a freeze frame from a film, and in that stillness there is a sense of foreboding, loneliness and despair which pervades the whole production. We decided that the colour palette and cultural references were very reminiscent of Twin Peaks, which might have influenced this feeling. This stillness also encourages the viewer to form their own ideas about what the series means, rather than directing them.

“It’s a mystery, in the end, and I want it to remain so,” Crewdson adds. “That goes for everything: in life and art.” (Guardian, 2016)

We left feeling a little frustrated, and with the definite impression that we had been participating in a murder mystery play that we hadn’t solved. The pictures were technically very proficient, and the emotions they brought out were disconcerting, but curiously they seemed to lack “heart”.

After lunch, we went over to the Whitechapel Gallery in the pouring rain. I hadn’t visited this gallery before; my usual stomping ground includes the Tate Modern, Beetles & Huxley and the Photographers Gallery. It was much bigger that I had expected with an interesting range of exhibition spaces, and an excellent tearoom and bookshop. Our mission was to see A Handful of Dust, but we also took in ISelf Collection: Portrait as a Billygoat which was wonderfully “modern” in its craziness.

It had been suggested that I see A Handful of Dust by fellow students who have seen my project for the TVG exhibition on Time, and it was definitely worth going to. It is a curated exhibition by David Campany, working out from a single image of some dust on a piece of glass in Marcel Duchamp’s famously filthy studio, although it was later attributed in many different ways. A handful of Dust poster

Campany takes the idea of dust and works out in different directions, using a variety of historical images to make us consider the interplay between the dust under the bed at home right through to interstellar dust, with various diversions through the Hiroshima nuclear bombing, American dust storms, vandalism and fracking, amongst other subjects. It is difficult to pick out specific images that stood out, although I did like Louise Oates’ Notes on Hydraulic Fracking, the Desolate North East, and the film Hiroshima Mon Amour, Directed by Alain Resnais (1959). Campany’s decisions about what to include in the exhibition might seem somewhat random, but there is a clear thread underneath on the meaning of the photograph as document and as a record, but also of how everything is connected at a cosmic level. It was fascinating, so much so that I bought the exhibition catalogue. This turned out to be two books, one of the photographs and the other an extended essay by Campany which contextualises the works. I am looking forward to reading it over the next few days.

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Louise Oates’ Notes on Hydraulic Fracking, the Desolate North East

The presentation of the work was one area which I was not so enthused. The walls of the space are painted dark green, and text was printed onto it in black type which made it very difficult to read unless one was standing directly in front of it.

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Overall, we both preferred A Handful of Dust to Cathedral of the Pines, which was surprising, as I had expected the converse. And for future reference, the lady in the Whitechapel Gallery bookshop told me that the next big exhibition, when the Campany one is over will be Thomas Ruff, which will also be worth a visit.

References

http://www.bjp-online.com/2017/06/crewdson-cathedral/

http://aperture.org/shop/crewdson-cathedral-of-the-pines/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/jun/08/a-handful-of-dust-whitechapel-photographers-show

http://aperture.org/blog/conversation-david-campany/

https://www.ft.com/content/70aec0e6-4583-11e7-8d27-59b4dd6296b8

 

 

 

Marlborough Open Studios – ideas aplenty

This last week, I spent five mornings doing a class in Qigong, (pronounced Chi-gong)which is a Chinese system of movements and breathing that promote good health and mindfulness. This is relevant to my studies as on Saturday, I set off on the first of what will be four days visiting artists’ studios to see the work they are exhibiting for the Marlborough Open Studios event. I have been feeling very disheartened about my photographic progress of late but suddenly my eyes seem to have opened again following the Qigong, and everywhere I go I see potential photographs. It is wonderfully inspiring, especially when coupled with seeing what artists from other disciplines are producing and how I might work with some of their ideas.

The majority of artists I have visited so far are not photographers, though I did meet and see the work of Richard Draper and Deborah Husk. Richard displayed some images from his series All Along the Watershed, a black and white landscape project, and I enjoyed talking to him about his influences, particularly Fay Godwin and our different impressions of the recent Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition. Deborah is a commercial photographer, but her art photography is about still life, mainly food and flowers. We had an excellent discussion about my project for the Thames Valley Forum on Time, and she showed me some wonderful 3D work using photographs and thread that she has done with Jane Corbett, an artists I met and blogged about recently. She also showed me a series in which she is aiming to produce something unique, as a means of removing the replicability of most photographs. In this case, she has photographed a set of objects, one of which has fallen from the picture and sits in reality at the bottom of the frame(link to examples here). I am not going to post a load of photos here, as I may decide to use them for an assignment, but there were some techniques and ideas I saw which I would like to incorporate into some of my work, and which I need to keep a note of.

  • Deborah’s images, which mix images and reality in the same frame – an idea I would like to explore, possibly with my Time project.
  • Her work with Jane Corbett, using photographs as 3D objects by cutting and threading, using millinary techniques.
  • Arran Miles’ collographs, which mixed screen printing with collage – so lovely I ended up buying one.
  • Rowan Whimster’s gorgeous pots, which look so fragile, but are in fact solid enough to hit with a padded hammer; each one produces a different sound, like a bell. Somehow, they manage to look both very modern and timeless.
  • Susie Whimster’s work which uses mark making as meaning. I must look into the concept of mark making, which is very much a part of the drawing/painting genre, but not so much used in photography.
  • Belinda Salmon Harding’s wonderful glasswork. Belinda did an MA with UCA, and we spent some time chatting about mutual interests. I took the photograph below of a piece of her work, which gives me much to think about in the idea of photography en abyme, something I also researched recently.

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  • Julie Smith’s lovely handmade books – I must have another go at these.
  • Mary Wilkinson’s minimalist paintings of Wiltshire and Devon, which resonated with some ideas I was trying out last week in Photoshop, using gradients and movement tools.

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I really want to try out some abstract work using this idea, but also tissue paper collage on top, and my recent purchase of a sample pack of Awagami washi photographic paper includes just the right sort of very thin paper. Am looking forward to some experimentation.

Next week, I plan to see several more artists in their studios as well. I am thoroughly enjoying seeing the work in media other than photography and the crossover points are legion.

American Pop Art review

Helen Frankenthaler Savage breeze

I attended this exhibition on the 16th June almost by mistake. My eldest son and I had intended to see the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum but could not get tickets, so we saw this instead. It wasn’t a wasted trip. The exhibition is huge, covering 12 rooms, and some iconic images were on show including Andy Warhol’s Marilyn series, Hockney’s Swimming Pool and other familiar pieces. Not having done any preparatory research, I was unaware that the whole exhibition was really about printmaking, and how it progressed during the second half of the 20th century. The videos about the printmaking processes were very interesting, and the complexity of some of the techniques was astonishing.

What is Pop Art?

This delightful little video from the Tate Gallery explains Pop Art in simple terms. Essentially, it says that there were two types of Pop Art, that made in America, and that made in the UK about America. In its explanation of the genre, the Tate Gallery says:

It began as a revolt against the dominant approaches to art and culture and traditional views on what art should be. Young artists felt that what they were taught at art school and what they saw in museums did not have anything to do with their lives or the things they saw around them every day. Instead they turned to sources such as Hollywood movies, advertising, product packaging, pop music and comic books for their imagery.

From the point of view of a photographer, looking at work produced in a different media, the exhibition resonated in many ways. I was interested in Warhol’s use of different colours and techniques in his Electric Chair series because several of my fellow students are currently experimenting with alternative techniques and it is something I would also like to explore. Warhol said of the series that repetition reduces impact, which is something that could equally be applied to many areas of photography. Roy Lichtenstein’s dot prints were fabulous – complex and graphically expert in design, with a palette of bright primary colours. I liked Roy Rauschenberg’s mix of photography and printing often using nonstandard processes, and I need to follow up his Stoned Moon series.

There were so many artworks that it would be impossible to note them all, but the ones that I would like to research further include:

  • Jasper Johns screen prints with multiple layers and lithographs. He takes well known symbols and manipulates them to be something else – other. I like Target with Four Faces, Two Maps II and Color Numerals – lovely colours, and each one was totally different.
  • Jim Dine’s use of objects to represent himself  – dressing gown, paint brushes etc. Five paintbrushes –  an iterative series with changes and improvements at each version, including the materials he used for the prints.
  • Ed Rushka Hollywood. A copy of 26 gasoline station cover there. Big Dipper over desert 1982, Whiskers 1972, Sin 1970, Every building on the sunset strip, which is a concertina book.
  • David Hockney – Mist from the Weather series
  • A lot of handmade paper throughout the exhibition. I need to explore how to do this and how it can be used in photography. Ellsworth Kelly used handmade paper as a medium in itself.
  • Helen Frankenthaler Savage Breeze. Wonderfully minimalist.
  • Anni Albers – I like her work with triangles, reminiscent of patchwork
  • Craig McPherson Yankee Stadium at Night – almost black, but it actually has a lot of detail.
  • Richard Estes Urban Landscapes – bright posterised images from photographs
  • Eric Fischi Year of the Drowned Dog. A series of six interlocking etchings which are meant to be seen as a composite, but which have equal validity as stand-alone images.

As tends to be the case with these exhibitions, the overwhelming majority of works were by men. And as also tends to be the case, there was a section at the end devoted to

  1. Political art and dissent – this was very interesting and full of subversive ideas. I would have liked to see more of these overtly political images,
  2. Gender and feminism – I think there were two works in the main section by women, both mentioned above, but this area contained works by Jenny Holtzer, Dottie Attie, May Stephens, Lee Lozano and Kiki Smith. I particularly liked Lozano’s books.
  3. Race  – Willie Cole’s Stowage was fascinating and shocking in equal measures and is not easily forgotten, as were Kara Walker’s prints on the slave trade.

I enjoyed the exhibition more than I had expected, and came away with various points to mull over. One is the positioning of printmaking somewhere between the complete replicability of (digital) photography and the uniqueness of paintings. The processes for making the works were long and formed of multiple parts, meaning that each time a work was printed, the effect was slightly different, in the same way that analogue printing produced subtly different results each time a negative is printed. Another is the use of different materials for printing and how the material itself forms part of the work. In particular, Ed Ruschka’s 3D thick paper roadsigns spring to mind. Finally, I was intrigued by Fischi’s Drowned Dog series and Dine’s Five Paintbrushes, and how the final works have the effects of time built directly into them, meaning that the sum of their parts is greater than the individual works, and one can see how they revisualised them again and again.

References

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/pop-art

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/video/unlock-art-alan-cumming-on-pop-art

http://advisor.museumsandheritage.com/american-dream-pop-present-qa-british-museum/

Wolfgang Tillmans at the Tate Modern

I attended the study visit on Saturday, which was led by Jayne Taylor, the tutor who regularly attends the Thames Valley Forum meetings. It was a popular visit, with a large group of students, mostly somewhere in the middle of their course. During the exhibition and the subsequent discussion, I wrote copious notes, but a couple of days later, I am still trying to work out how to interpret Tillman’s work. The best way I can think of to describe how his work appears to me is as one of those neural network images, with thousands of strands joining at random nodes, like the one below.

neuron-network-in-the-human-brain-computer-artwork-E7TP8AI have read the suggested reviews of the work, and watched some of the YouTube clips, but the explanation that accords with my own thoughts best is the post by fellow student, Kate, linked here.

Tillmans says that he sees linkages everywhere between seemingly unrelated subjects. The exhibition is set out in a series of 14 rooms, each with a general theme, and some of these are more easy to comprehend than others. He photographs everything from the mundane to the very exotic, and the print size varies from tiny 6×4″ ones to room length. They are all presented together in what appears to be a chaotic manner, but in reality Tillmans has put considerable thought into their placing and colocation with each other. One of the videos shows that he is a big fan of scale models and sets his exhibitions out with absolute precision, according to a system which is opaque to all but himself.

He says his aim is to look at everything, new or familiar, with a fresh eye – not particularly unusual in its own right, but the subjects that attract him tend to be different from other people – weeds, excess, decay, transition. These are mixed with his clear activist ideals into jumbles of loosely related images and a lot of papers and books as well. Subjects that interest him include different understandings of “truth” and the backfire effect, whereby we categorise any proof that does not accord with our understanding of a subject as ill-informed and wrong; fake news as it were.

I could go on for several more paragraphs about the different media he works in, including video, music and sculpture, but the exhibition is so vast and complex that it is impossible on a single visit to appreciate everything fully. I therefore want to mention two aspects that struck me particularly as I moved around the rooms. Firstly, Tillmans homosexuality is referenced throughout, and I was very touched at the affectionate and tender way he portrays his friends and lovers. A host of images feature them, either in portrait form, or as snippets of their bodies which caught his attention, such as the nape of a neck, or a sliver of skin between jeans and t-shirt.

The second area that attracted me was his experiments with the process of making photographs. Not so much the folder single colour prints, but the large scale images he has drawn from dirty printers and his use of non-standard print processes which look at colour grading. These include several images taken from the windows of planes (a subject very close to my own heart), and which produced beautiful modernist abstracts.

Finally, and just for fun, I took a series of several photos in his installation Instrument 2015, where he juxtaposes two video loops, one of himself from behind, dressed only in underpants and dancing while facing the wall, and other which might just be another version of the same, but which is really his shadow on the wall at a totally separate place and time. These rather mundane but mesmerising loops are accompanied by a weird electronic sound, which is apparently synthesised from the noise his feet made while he was filming. The total effect is bizarrely addictive, and the point he is making is that we want the two films to be of the same thing, even when they are not. In any case, my high speed shots of what I was seeing revealed bizarre coloration changes, which I enjoyed making. Jayne said it was something to do with my camera’s rendering of the work.  So here, below, I have shown what the eye saw, along with a few of my camera’s interpretations of the same.

 

Finally, it needs to be reiterated that this exhibition cannot possibly be fully appreciated in one viewing. There is just too much to take in, and Tillman’s thinking is too opaque. It is abundantly clear that he is an excellent photographer and that it all means something, but divining what that meaning might be is a substantial undertaking. As Jayne, said during our discussion after the show, “There’s only room in art photography for one Wolfgang Tillmans.”

Made You Look exhibition, Photographers’ Gallery

Yesterday I visited two exhibitions with fellow student Lynda Kuit, who was visiting from Canada. We started with the Made You Look exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery, and then moved on to An Ideal for Living at Beetles & Huxley. This post is mostly concerned with the former.

I will say right away that I struggled with the Made You Look exhibition. There is clearly a significant background text about how black men are defined by white society and how they choose to respond to the white gaze and I felt my lack of knowledge about this hampered my ability to understand the images. The books section of the exhibition included several tomes on the subject of black dandyism, which I felt might be required reading before one could make a sensible judgement of some of the images. In a nutshell though, it seems that a section of the black male population uses extreme fashion as a way of making themselves visible on the world stage, and that “dandyism deliberately flouts conventional notions of class, taste, gender and sexuality” as a means of rebelling against their perceived cultural status. (Eshun, 2016)

However, a variety of photographers from across the world were represented, and the ones that stood out for me were as follows. Colin Jones’ 1970s series The Black House, on young men who lived at a London hostel for people who struggled with abuse and alienation from society was one. So very, very different from my own upbringing at the same age. Interestingly, Jones also had images on show in the Beetles & Huxley show, which I will come to later.

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I saw the Dandy Lion Project several weeks later at the Brighton Biennale, which included some of the same photographers, and felt that it was much more explanatory, although, admittedly, it did feature many more works which helped.

Finishing this post a couple of months later, I can honestly say that I can’t recall much at all about the Beetles & Huxley exhibition, except that it seemed much more accessible than this one. This is interesting, as perhaps it showed that it is the work which falls outside one’s comfort range that stays with you, not what is familiar and easily understood. Something to think about for the future.

Exhibitions in the Blue Mountains, Australia

I have been off-radar over the last month on a road trip through the heartland of Australia. There will probably be other blog posts about my experiences but I will start with reviews of two exhibitions I saw while on a day trip to the Blue Mountains. My first stop (in poor weather) was to the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in Katoomba, where I serendipitously stopped to escape the rain and saw a series by Australian photographer Nicole Welch called Wildēornes Land, while I waited for the weather to clear up. A link to the exhibition is here.

The show was surprisingly modernistic for a tiny town with an old -fashioned high street and the exhibition space is wonderfully large and open. Like most places in Australia, there is just more space, which allows for museums and galleries to give plenty of room for their subjects to breathe.

Welch’s multimedia show/installation uses images, sculpture, sound and film to investigate the Blue Mountains wilderness from a historical, cultural and ecological viewpoint. The exhibition draws upon archival records that illuminate early European’s romantic notions of Australian wilderness juxtaposed with contemporary ideas and concerns that reflect the inherent loss and uncertainty we now face for our natural environment. (BMCS website)

Particularly striking was her use of a Victorian Chantilly lace mourning shawl in locations of historical significance, which references the gap between past and present. Alongside this were enormous video screens where one could see one’s shadow imprinted on the work, as if the viewer was part of the scene itself. I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, and especially the shawl images, which were delicate, evocative and beautiful, yet filled with meaning and sadness for a way of life that is disappearing.

After leaving this exhibition when the rain stopped, I walked the mile or so to the Scenic World Park, which billed itself as an exploration through a temperate rain forest via the steepest railway n the world. The park is more attractive than all the modern hurly burly of concession stands and gift shops at the top indicates, and I enjoyed a walk through the forest on an elevated boardwalk. A current addition to this is a fabulous sculpture trail, using various media from string to items of rubbish. Here are a few of my images from it. The string work was the most successful, I thought, although the crazy installations of garish pictures will stick in my mind for a long time. (Apologies for the gloomy quality of the images, but they were all taken in fairly low light because of the heavy tree canopy. Also, there was no information leaflet for the trail, as far as I could see, so unfortunately I cannot reference the artists).

Both of these exhibitions used objects in the landscape to make their point and this is an area I would like to explore further, later in my degree.