Pushing the Boundaries of Contemporary Photography
This week Photo London opens at Somerset House, where Joanna Bryant and Julian Page are showing three contemporary artists who are pushing the boundaries of photography into the fine art arena. The group presentation has a strong theme, centred upon the urban environment, and the materials that the artists have used range from silver gelatin prints to bin bags.
Habitually carrying her Leica camera, Matilde takes photographs in her North London neighbourhood. She selects a number of these images to enlarge and hand-print onto the challenging surface of a black plastic bin bag. Matilde is an Italian photographer who spent 15 years living and working in New York, where she had been granted a visa as a photo-journalist. An unexpected and abrupt change in immigration laws, however, severely interrupted her life and ambitions, causing a permanent sense of loss and displacement. Following a move to London she saw her uncertainties and fears mirrored in the faces of many of her neighbouring immigrant communities. The project, Exiles, explores a sense of not belonging to a life that is currently being lived; a humanity that is emotionally homeless and exiled from its surroundings; feelings of estrangement from reality. The uneven surface of the black plastic, emphasises the individuality as well as the ephemerality of each of our lives. She displays these as sculptural art works, filled with yesterday’s news and discarded packaging, to show how those in higher authority may view our lives as cheap, valueless and disposable.
Exploring the realm of the ‘photographic’ in relation to other disciplines and art histories is the core of Nikolai’s work. He often dramatises the processes and materials of photography and mixes them with those of other media such as concrete and household chemicals. Hovering between the handmade, the industrial and the archaeological, his work taps into photography’s ambivalent relationship with the modernist canon, to which it was instrumental but into which, he feels, it wasn’t properly absorbed. In ‘Arcadia’, a new series the artist started last year, he continues to blend photographic, drawing and painting techniques; this time reimagining mountainous terrains as quasi-architectural geometric compositions. Modernist architecture, with its steel-frame and cantilevered structures, completely changed the relationship between the interior and the outside, literally opening up new vistas onto nature. Hulking Brutalist forms, as Jonathan Meades argues in his documentary ‘Bunkers, brutalism and bloody-mindedness: Concrete poetry’, went one step further by seeking to replace nature as the source of the sublime. Starting with snaps of mountain ranges, Nikolai abstracts them through repetitive redrawing, rendering the drawings as silver gelatin prints and then working over them. Stark staccatos of angular black and white areas abut bands of blue, where the movement of the hand is allowed to become visible. The title ‘Arcadia’ alludes to how both the landscape and architecture are instrumentalised in the name of idealised visions.
Eglė challenges the viewer to take a new perspective towards Brutalist architecture (1950’s – 1970’s). Concrete is the most evident material used in buildings of this movement, allowing the architect to achieve a rawness and honesty in the construction, with sharp and precise edges, and a majestic quality. Despite their distinctive style and important heritage, Brutalist buildings have been progressively demolished across Britain in recent years. Eglė brings their significance and support for their preservation into our awareness.
“With this project, I would like to highlight the importance of this style and look at the buildings as works of art in themselves, regardless of their context. The addition of a digitally manipulated black sky, allows me to isolate the buildings and emphasise their graphic beauty”.
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Julian Page and Joanna Bryant are independent art curators and dealers, supporting emerging and established contemporary artists and working together to hold exhibitions that reveal surprising dialogues through the process of collaboration.
Photo London brings together the world's leading photographers, curators and dealers to celebrate photography, the medium of our time, from its invention through to the most exciting emerging galleries and artists today. We are showing in the Discovery Section on Stand D11.
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