A new exhibition of camera-less photography by Paul Kenny will include recent works from his series Seaworks and O'Hanami - re-imaginings of objects found along the shoreline and forest floors of Great Britain.
The concept for Seaworks arose whilst Kenny was scouring a beach in Mayo, Ireland in 2000 and stumbled upon a 7UP bottle with a message inside that had been washed up on the shore. The bottle had taken seven years to cross the Atlantic from Fado Island, off Newfoundland and was covered in thousands of scratches that had been left by the tide, rocks and barnacles whilst at sea. Inspired by the idea of nature leaving its mark on the man-made object, Kenny started cutting up bottles to create his works. Working without a camera, Kenny creates small plates or slides laden with objects found on his wanderings leaves, flowers, shells and rocks. Each plate is then scanned to produce abstract large-scale photographs rich with opalescent colours, which take on the form of imagined landscapes.
Kenny's O Hanami series is named after the Japanese festival that celebrates the few short days of cherry blossom blooms before they are swept away by the wind. Inspired by a trip to Japan, this series considers the passing of the seasons and the ephemeral beauty flora, fauna and in Kenny's found objects.
Born in 1951, Kenny grew up on a council estate in Salford and was encouraged by his father to take up drawing to provide an alternative to a career in manual labour. Whilst studying fine art in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Kenny began to appreciate the Northumbrian coastline, previously only having seen the beaches at Blackpool and Southport an appreciation which would preoccupy his artistic career. At art school Kenny came under the influence of American Modernist photographers Minor White and Paul Strand, seeing their work published in Creative Camera magazine. His early work consisted of small, detailed still life photographs of beaches. He progressed to using experimental methods such as splashing the images with seawater as they developed to give them a tinted sheen, always using water taken from the location of the photograph - realising that different kinds of exposure and erosion changed the appearance of the image.
Environmentally minded, Kenny is insistent that, although experimental, his work is first and foremost photography and cites the influence of land artists including Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy. Building on forty years of work, this exhibition will highlight a new interest in Kenny's work with the division of land through man-made grids, in the form of maps and arbitrary demarcations.
Kenny's work is held in collections including the National Media Museum, Bradford; the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; Goldman Sachs; and the Deutsche Bank Collection.
Gallery director, Giles Huxley-Parlour says: "I have been an avid champion of Kenny's work since I first saw his photographs many years ago. Breathing life into object overlooked by others, Kenny creates expansive, cosmic images from minute, fragile ephemera. Unceasingly innovative, he is at the forefront of developments in contemporary abstract photography."