The Factory 2016
The Old Herring Factory, Djupavik, Iceland (June 2016)
When planning our road trip around Iceland, we highlighted Djupavik on the itinerary, one because of its remote location and interesting history, and two because of the annual photography exhibition. I’m so glad we did, it was a fascinating and bizarre kind of place in a stunning isolated location near the head of a fjord.
“The Factory” is an exhibition where photographers from all corners of the world, if selected, get to showcase their work. The location and surroundings of this ‘gallery’ are unique. The photographs are displayed in the old abandoned and dilapidated herring factory, surrounded by rusty old machinery and assorted mechanical objects.
The work that particularly caught my eye was that of photographer Etienne Ketelslegers. He is Belgian, a radiologist and a passionate photographer. He first visited in Iceland in 2010 and like me, was enchanted by the landscape and the forms, colours and materials on the island. His series reminded me of the John Maher exhibition I visited back in May “Nobody’s Home”. Many of the houses in Ketelslegers’ series of photographs are also abandoned.
“The purpose of this series is to highlight the aesthetic potential, sometimes unintended and often unrecognized.”, Ketelslegers points out. These properties are dotted about the Icelandic landscape and there is a mystery surrounding each of them, they represent evidence of human life, but where are they now and why did they leave? Unlike Maher, this photographer has chosen not to show the interiors of the buildings, maybe access was forbidden or boarded up. For me this series is more about position in the landscape, how the buildings blend in or stand out.
Here are a couple of shots I took earlier on our trip.
Left: Most definitely abandoned, I did have a poke around but the two entrances were well and truly sealed, mostly with rust. The colours are of nature and compliment the landscape and although it is in a sorry state it does have a romantic appeal for me, particularly the fjord side setting. Quite possibly a fisherman’s cottage/shelter.
Right: Here I show old and new and there is evidence of human existence (washing on the line), although there was no sign of life when we walked by.
I intend to work on a personal project with the images I have from our visit to Iceland, focusing on the prominence of colours on the island.
OCA study visit
Edward Chambré-Hardman “Intermissions”
Liverpool Central Library 16th January 2016
“It is my intention that in viewing these portraits, the spectator becomes the common denominator between the three points in the process of observation. The spectator can either choose to view the first image, or the second image independently, but the fact that the pair have been presented together can never be overlooked. By viewing the images side by side and either traversing between the pair, or even trying to take in both simultaneously, there is an attempt to place the emphasis upon the physical gap in time.” Keith Roberts 2015
This study visit was timely for me as I have just completed the “People and place” module. It was also a good opportunity to meet with other OCA students to exchange thoughts and ideas. The project belongs to Keith Roberts OCA tutor and host for this event.
It was the attractive and questioning exhibition poster that caught my eye and enticed me to attend the study visit. It reminds me of a Bauhaus design (triangle), one is immediately captivated by the two contrasting images and attempts to make them one, drawing the eye to the apex of the triangle.
Edward Chambré Hardman, (1898-1988), is still perhaps best known for his photograph The Birth of the Ark Royal (1950). However for around half a century from 1923 he and his wife Margaret ran a successful commercial portrait studio, first on Liverpool’s Bold Street then on Rodney Street, now owned by the National Trust. Between 1923 – 1963 Hardman meticulously recorded the subjects he photographed in 11 Studio Registers and all the negatives were stored in biscuit tins – approximately 140,000. Fortunately Hardman was a hoarder and shortly after his death, his treasured collection was rescued from his home by Liverpool photographer Peter Hagerty.
Keith Roberts has commenced the extensive, fascinating job of digitising the collection and it is hoped that his exhibition, a portfolio of 80 photographs (40 pairs) will trigger memories and be recognised and identified by family, friends and members of the local community. The “sitters”, many of which were servicemen and women, are shown in time-lapse, pre and post war.
I asked Keith what his driver was (apart from the fact that this was his PhD project), Curiosity? Commitment? Determination? He said that he hoped to redress the balance of Hardman’s work – commercial portraiture versus his better known landscape images. Keith stated he had become attached to the portraits, especially as people come forward in emotional recognition and add dimension to the image, he now feels as much engaged with the subjects as with the project as a whole.
Personally, I found it fascinating, a slice of social history. As the viewer, I was able to reflect on what could have happened to the subjects in the intervening period – the intermission. I was compelled to fill in the gaps, create my own narrative, many assumptions made as a result!
I particularly enjoyed listening to Keith explain how he had delved further, out of personal curiosity, he has returned to several of the locations where the portraits were originally taken and retaken the shots, bereft of their subjects. How wonderful to discover many of the places as they were back then, then visualise the grand event of the portrait sitting. This has sparked an idea for a future project!
The Clark Art Museum “Van Gogh and Nature”
Williamstown, Massachusetts (July 2015)
An exhibition of nature surrounded by Mother Nature. My summer visit to The Clark, art museum in its stunning setting in The Berkshires, New England, was an architectural delight. Apart from viewing the wonderful art on display, it’s also a wonderful place to while away a day – take in the pure air and relax in the peaceful natural surroundings. I have been able to use one or two photographs of this unique setting in my learning log for some of the exercises.
Van Gogh and Nature
From his earliest letters to his last great drawings and paintings, Van Gogh showed an extraordinary fascination with the natural world. Youthful studies of trees, flowers, and heath-land were accompanied by verbal descriptions of the changing seasons. In 1874 he wrote to his brother Theo: “Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better. Painters understand nature and love it, and teach us to see.”
The earliest piece at the Clark was an 1881 ink drawing called “Marsh With Waterlilies: Etten.” It’s a wonderful fine line drawing with a small bird hovering at its centre. The detail is so exquisite that the absence of colour is never considered.
Left: There is a lily pond in the grounds of The Clark, which I headed off to photograph after the exhibition. I have to say that the detail and honesty in Van Gogh’s drawing is as true as the real thing.
In contrast, the vibrancy of “The Sower” (1888), a brilliant yellow sun dominates as it radiates across the scene, setting on a field of golden wheat. There are vivid jewel tones of violet, sapphire and amber. The heat and brilliance caused me to almost squint. The Sower, a cheery faced man striding out with confidence. I labour over this painting for some time, having just read about Van Gogh’s short life……..
I read that it has long been thought that Van Gogh committed suicide in this very wheat field in Auvers where he frequently went to paint. Recent research suggests that he was killed accidentally by a couple of boys larking around with a malfunctioning gun.
Gregory White Smith, ( Van Gogh’s biography “The Life” 2012) said, Van Gogh did not “actively seek death but that when it came to him, he embraced it”. He said his acceptance of death was “really done as an act of love to his brother, to whom he was a burden”. Van Gogh’s brother, Theo was funding the artist who, at that time, “wasn’t selling”.
……As I look again at the painting I see “The Sower” as Van Gogh in a different frame of mind – happy and confident with his lot, sowing the seeds of success. Rather than in the dark state of his troubled mind, he is surrounded by brightness and warmth. Van Gogh said “I dream of painting and then I paint my dream”…………
The research and the theories continue to question and seek the truth. I look forward to the forthcoming film “Loving Vincent”.
Naifeh, S. & White Smith, G. 2012 (Reprint edition). Van Gogh “The Life”. Random House. New York.