CAPTURED: A review of Rainmaker’s Native American photography exhibition

5 March – 30 May 2015 This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine. I was the Assistant Curator for this exhibition.

'Nikki' by Cara Romero

‘Nikki’ by Cara Romero

‘Captured’ is a groundbreaking exhibition at Rainmaker Gallery, Bristol, in which contemporary Native American photographers shed new light on both the uses of photography and indigenous American life. Together, the six artists represent eight different tribes and each have very distinctive styles and techniques. Their contributions consist of close-up black-and-white portraits, composite photographs woven together, sepia images that are so clear and detailed they look akin to etchings, compositional recreations of famous film scenes, and even a ‘talking’ tintype. This makes for an eclectic mixture of work, although the pieces are united by the artists’ desires to have Native people assert themselves as powerfully present individuals. The bold and often colourful images challenge preconceived notions of American Indians conjured by popular non-Native photographers, such as Edward Curtis (1868-1952), who have fixed in time romanticised ideas about indigenous life. So by presenting work where Native people themselves hold the cameras, this exhibition provides a much-needed reassessment of photography relating to American Indians and their relationships with the photographic lens. It is particularly important for revealing that in reality, their tribal cultures are continually evolving and are no less authentic today than in the past. This is a vast project for Rainmaker Gallery to communicate in its first ever photography exhibition held in its productive twenty-five year history of exhibiting contemporary Native American art. But there is no doubt that the gallery has achieved its unique and important aims.  Continue reading

Arboretum: The art of trees, the Arborealists and other artists

This review is published in Trebuchet Magazine

Shakespeare often used murky forests and prickly undergrowth in his plays as spaces where carnival and otherworldly events could be performed. These woods are liminal places, on the edge of civilisation, creative centres of critique. Similar to many of the Bard’s characters that take a trip to these woods, the viewer of this RWA exhibition is thrown into a magical world of organic transformation and thought-provoking negotiation. A bold sculpture comprised of several steel and bone white sycamores clearly sets the woodland scene. Its confidence and orderly appearance invites us in. Yet it is also quietly subversive by defying the conventional space of the art gallery and taking the inside outside. Its almost as if we can hear the crunch of leaves underfoot as we walk towards this sculpture, so powerful is its provocation of being a ‘real’ forest. This reminds us that trees, like all organic life, resist containment and frames. Fittingly, many of the paintings also included in this show are left raw and unframed, exposed to the elements – and artistic scrutiny.

Fiona Hingston’s  ‘Findings’

Fiona Hingston’s ‘Findings’

There is a curious mixture of styles, from the highly naturalistic, to the hyper-realistic, to those flirting with abstraction and those that are fully immersed within it. This conveys a clear sense of experimentation and exploration into which styles are suitable for contemporary portrayals of a long-examined subject. Fiona Hingston’s piece called ‘Findings’ display found natural objects from the floors of Biddlecomb Wood in the style of a Modernist grid. This rings strange with the natural materials and subject matter, making us question how we make sense of our surroundings.  Continue reading

Josephine Pryde exhibition at the Arnolfini

Arnolfini gallery guideI am part of the Young Arnolfini, an arts collective for young people in Bristol that works closely with the Arnolfini gallery. In response to the current exhibition at this institution, I decided to write a ‘reading list’ to collect together the literature it made me think about or that could be set in dialogue with it. This turned into more of a reflection piece. The section on hands is published in the Arnolfini gallery guide, and I have turned the other two parts into audio guides in collaboration with the rest of the Young Arnolfini group.

 

Selected reading list for Josephine Pryde’s exhibition, ‘These are just things I say, they are not my opinions’

Photography and Technology

The Image Culture in which we live has been foreseen by many writers, including Guy Debord with his 1967 book, The Society of The Spectacle. Moholy Nagy also predicted the power of images over the whole of society in his essay and theory, The New Vision, 1989. He states, “The illiterate of the future will be the person ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen”.  Continue reading

Contemporary Sculpture at the Zabludowicz Collection

This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine.

The latest exhibitions at the Zabludowicz Collection in north London explore how to make and present contemporary sculpture. Four young artists are presented and their work each occupies a different room in the gallery spaces, which makes for an eclectic viewing experience. The Collection is known for showcasing emerging young artists and nurturing the latest talent in the UK and abroad, and this show certainly does by enabling interactions between new pieces for the exhibition and artworks from the private Collection.

Work by Sam FallsAlthough each exhibition has the potential to be a disparate experience, and the gallery as a whole to feel fragmented, the Zabludowicz Collection manages to hold them together through several common themes, some of which are more obvious than others. These themes include the evocation and exploration of the human body, the concern with states of change and the passing of time, and the use of everyday materials. The artworks are also in dialogue with the gallery’s environment.  Continue reading

Reflections on UCL’s Printing Techniques Workshop

This article is published on the UCL Art Museum blog

Slade students, artists and curious print-making novices both from within and outside of UCL got together for a Pop Up lunch-time talk by artist and UCL Art Museum Curatorial Assistant, Ling Chiu on 27th May in the UCL Art Museum. When she is not at the Museum, Ling works at a printmaking studio in southeast London, helping artists such as Ray Richardson and Peter Blake to create prints in screenprint, etching and lithography.

Jack Miller’s 'Weird Tales'

Jack Miller’s ‘Weird Tales’

Ling introduced us to fine art printing techniques, referring to the UCL Art Museum’s extensive collection of prints as inspirational examples. We were encouraged to look at a diverse selection before the workshop started, and then to reflect on them again after we had learnt about some of the printing techniques. This produced different engagements with the work, and was a fun way of relating techniques back to the art objects. The most popular print Ling displayed from the collection was Jack Miller’s ‘Weird Tales’ (UCL Art Museum 9239), which had a textured, velvet effect produced by combining flocking with screenprint techniques (think Andy Warhol meets 18th century floral wallpaper!).  Continue reading

The Press Photography of Red Vienna 1929 – 1938: An interview

Published on the UCL Art Museum BlogHelen Cobby interviews the researchers of the Red Vienna project, Eva Branscome and Catalina Mejia, before their Pop-Up Display and Lecture on 12th Nov.

Nazis handing out soup in front of Karl Marx Hof

Nazis handing out soup in front of Karl Marx Hof

This event is based round American press photographs depicting social housing estates during the turbulent inter-war years in Vienna. The photographs record three specific epochs within this time frame, from the building of the social houses to the take-over of Austria by the Nazis. The interview below includes Eva’s and Catalina’s thoughts about the development of their project, the active role of the photographs in the manipulation of historical events, as well as the importance of new photographic technologies emerging at the time and new relations between image and caption that this brings.

How would you summarise some of the fundamental debates posed by these press photographs? And what social constructions do you think the photographs specifically add to, or help create?

Eva: The first lot of photographs I have document the fantastic socialist housing projects that took place in Vienna at the end of the 1920s. The government realised it had a problem with overcrowding and people being homeless after the First World War. These housing projects addressed issues with families, and with children – such as not having a place to play, and being forced into crime. It was believed that by giving families decent homes, society could be changed and people could be made happier and more productive. These housing projects produced great excitement internationally by experimenting with Socialism through architecture and thinking about how it could change the world.  Continue reading

Jacqueline Donachie: Weight, Susan’s Eyes and Winter Trees 2008

Friday Focus leafletThis is an article I wrote after giving a talk about the artist and her work at one of the Leamington Spa Gallery’s ‘Friday Focus’ talks

Donachie’s work “Weight, Susan’s Eyes and Winter Trees 2008” is a recent acquisition of The Leamington Art Gallery and is an important and thought-provoking piece to have in their collection. It stands out in the gallery because it is so different to the other pieces on display: it is an installation, and is modern and minimalist in its use of media, techniques and presentation. It helps to raise and expand important debates such as the interaction between science and art, the relationship between the art object and the viewer, and ideas about the politics of representation and interpretation.

This work is also captivating because of the refreshing and unusual way it focuses on the genetic disorder Muscular Dystrophy – which the artist’s sister has. Muscular Dystrophy is a muscle wasting condition of which there are many types – and each affects different muscles. Most conditions are progressive, causing the muscles to weaken over time. Some form of this disease affects more than 70,000 people in the UK. There is no cure for any of the different types, though there are various treatments that can help and gene therapy may be developed in the future.  Continue reading

Alexis Hunter and Jo Spence at Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

Published on Kaleidoscope Magazine’s website blog, September 2013

The Richard Saltoun Gallery, London, presents rarely seen, though highly influential, photographic portraits from the 1970s and 80s by feminist artists Alexis Hunter and Jo Spence. Tackling notions of female subjectivity, self-representation and the dominant (photographic) gaze, the exhibition reveals provocative insights into the empowerment of women. Hunter draws upon her training in painting to blur the boundaries between different media and uses this to subvert categories of political representation. Spence, however, uses photography to re-frame and re-enact her own subjective self, making ideas of erasure, creation and multiplicity fundamental to her practice and political agenda. Both artists explore the presentation of the female body, and through repetition of images and actions indicate there are multiple facets of the self. Some scenes retain the feel of amateur “snapshot” photography, suggesting these issues can be seen by and concern us all. Spence particularly draws upon personal subject matter, making themes of vulnerability, rawness and even tenderness surface in the initially confrontational-looking work. The self is bared almost explicitly in order to do away with cultural masks. This is a highly political and conceptual exhibition, concerned with defamiliarizing the image. Implicitly, it asks how can the female body be seen for what it is, as a self, rather than a set of cultural signifiers.

Alexis Hunter and Jo Spence’s exhibition curated by George Vasey at Richard Saltoun Gallery, London, will run through September 27.