Exhibitions: People and Place

Jane Glynn “Printfest 2015”
Ulverston, Cumbria (May 2015)

printfestIt was the leaflet that first caught my attention, the lone chair in an apparently abandoned space but with signs of recent occupation. This I thought ties in well with my current project “People and place”. I knew nothing about printmaking but decided the Printfest exhibition, fairly close to home, would be worth a visit.

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Jane Glynn is an Irish artist/printmaker currently undertaking a Master’s Degree in Fine Art Printmaking at the National College of Art & Design (NCAD) in Dublin. She currently holds the title of Printmaker of the Year 2015, granted to her for Empty Spaces, Human Traces, as displayed at the exhibition.

Liminal space (I had to google liminal, def: relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process), is the focus of her current project, the interiors of buildings in transition – places that are floating between functions, drifting towards abandonment and decay, hovering between ownership old and new.  She has a fascination with the remnants of past lives – both physical and psychological, that remain in these buildings long after their inhabitants have gone.

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This exhibition has inspired me to consider a future project focusing on atmospheric spaces and their sense of fleeting temporality. I have already completed a photo shoot of a now defunct seaside Lido. I get a real sense of nostalgia when I am in the presence of abandoned buildings and places. I guess this is why I photographed the neglected railway carriages for my final assignment for The art of photography.

 

Tony Ray-Jones/Martin Parr “Only in England”
Walker Gallery, Liverpool (February 2015)

IMG_0001My visit to the Only in England exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, allowed me to make a clearer comparison between Martin Parr and Tony Ray-Jones. I noted that Tony Ray-Jones had a tendency to observe and photograph the more quirky shots of English eccentricity.  His focus in particular is of folk of the sixties, in that era a day off work or a works shutdown week was to be relished and a trip to the seaside a must – whatever the weather! I can relate to this,  a trip to North Wales for a caravan holiday, beach picnic, donkey ride and a scurry about in the rock pools was a fun occasion for all my family.

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I like the humorous shots. English holiday-makers making the best of things. Maybe it’s the artful way in which he captures a group of individuals – they appear to be connected but may well be complete strangers just grouped together in a sunny spot.

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Martin Parr on the other hand chose to exhibit his work entitled “The Non-Conformists” set in chapels around rural Yorkshire. Inspired by the work of Ray-Jones, these black and white images taken in the mid 1970’s, document his subjects with some subtle use of humour and wistfulness, but for me they have a more melancholic feel.

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Taking tea with friends of the church. The lady positioned directly beneath Jesus Christ in the scene of The Last Supper. Does she purposefully sit there (this is my seat)?  We cannot see the expressions on the faces of her companions, however one imagines they are not smiling because of the solemn face of our prominent subject.

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The humour in this shot “Congregation making their way to the Grimsworth Dean Methodist Chapel Anniversary Service, 1975″ is questionable though. Are we being asked to laugh at these women walking to church, as a cow (composed to make it loom large), looks over at them? This image hints at the insult of referring to women as cows which was common in the 70’s. Or, is Parr merely drawing attention to the humorous aspect of the scene?

 

Andy Gotts “Behind the mask”
The Lowry, Salford, Manchester (January 2015)

LowryPrior to this exhibition, I had not heard of Norfolk born photographer Andy Gotts (b 1971). Thinking his work would be similar to that of David Bailey I went along expecting to view the rich and famous in various poses.

I was pleasantly surprised, Gotts “Behind the Mask” displayed over one hundred portraits of BAFTA nominated/winning actors and actresses. The majority of famous faces were shot in black and white and evoked mood, character and emotion, quite an achievement in a still photo. I was instantly drawn in by the transparency and animation, the impact of the life-like 3D images had me transfixed.

Below: I was expecting  the rugged Jeff Bridges to turn his head at any moment.  Similarly composed, the honesty of the Colin Firth image is natural and unstaged.

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The notable contrast between these two ladies demands lingering a while to absorb the beauty. Nicole Kidman – serene, elegant and coolly portrayed with perfect youthful skin, against the late Lauren Bacall (aged 88) depicted as she was, no surgical intervention evident – what you see is what you got.

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I have to say that I enjoyed this exhibition more than Bailey’s “Stardust” (2014). Andy Gotts simplistic approach and shooting style brings out the raw natural qualities of these talented stars.

The one thing that did spoil the exhibition was the Lowry’s choice of arena in which to display the work. All the portraits were arranged along a sort of corridor with full length windows to one side. The reflections interfered with the images and hampered viewing significantly. I’m sure Mr Gotts would have been horrified!

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Robert Heinecken “Lessons in Posing Subjects”
Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool (November 2104)

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This was an entertaining  visit! At first we took the whole thing seriously, because back in the seventies in the days of mail-order catalogues, models did indeed appear in this way. Heineken’s portrayal of models placed in “Pose no. 1, Pose no.2” etc are full of humour.

He is known for reworking images found on news stands, in magazines by collaging fashion images juxtaposed with nudes or overlaying them with mostly pornographic images. Maybe these images are Heinecken’s way of suggesting what he imagines is hidden beneath the clothing, he then adds text in an often sarcastic tone.

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For many of his ’70’s images he used the new Polaroid SX-70 camera the “bedroom camera” as Heinecken called it. For me,  by displaying his work in this format, complete with fingerprints, portrayed the works as personal or private, therefore all the more intriguing for the viewer.

 

David Bailey’s “Stardust”
National Portrait Gallery, London (May 2014)

A keen photographer friend and I took a day trip to the capital to view this exhibition. Ahead of my new course People and Place, I was eager to see this  display of 250 portrait images, personally selected and printed by Bailey. The images were set out in themes across a series of rooms.

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An insightful exhibition which provided me with lots of tips for my forthcoming course module on portraiture. This is the first time I have noticed how  Bailey’s “tight framing” shots crop part of the outline of the head. I also note that when he shoots his subjects fairly square to the frame, it is the angle he takes the shot from that creates the drama in the image. His years of experience of putting his subjects at ease, portraying their personalities, shows through in all the work on display.

I will be including David Bailey in my research file in January 2015, and will be working hard to replicate his style in my forthcoming portraiture projects.

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Getty Center
Los Angeles USA (June 2014)

Although the main purpose of this visit (to the museum, not the States!) was to view the Ansel Adams exhibition, the architectural design of the place was stunning and therefore a photographers’ dream in itself.

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The museum and art galleries are positioned high up above the city in a lush green setting with beautiful gardens. The gardens and landscaping offer colour – cool & warm planting, texture, shape and light & shadow. The architect (Richard Meier USA 1943 –) uses geometric design – squares, circles and sweeping shapes to add drama and fun to the buildings layout.

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The upper level of the art galleries use skylights to incorporate daylight, not only saving on electricity, but allowing the viewers to see the paintings in natural light.

The Ansel Adams gallery displayed some of his most famous Yosemite images in his renowned tonal black and white. Later in our trip we visited Yosemite National Park and I did my best to reproduce Adams’ black and white  effects. (See below and my Photographer Research section).

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J M Whistler. “Whistler and Watercolour”
Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow (December 2013)

Whistler poster I visited this exhibition while I was working up in Scotland. It was interesting to study the watercolours and see how well pastels work together. A departure from all the strong, bright colours I was studying for my colour projects and assignment. The soft, muted colours however are nevertheless clearly identifiable and the subjects sharp and defined.

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Above:  “Sea and Sand, Domburg” Summer 1900, depicts depth and a sense of space.

Below: “Au bord de la mer” c.1885, shows Whistler’s experimentation with texture and pattern. Subtle yet bold.

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Joe Cornish
Joe Cornish Gallery,  Northallerton, North Yorkshire (2013)

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Joe’s main concern is for landscape photography in North Yorkshire and Cumbria. His work is very popular locally. During a visit to his gallery, for some bizarre reason, the majority of his work did not inspire me. Maybe landscapes are not my bag? Lovely to see the wild landscape in real, but in print? Cornish’s work didn’t beg me to pause and consider or draw me in. I did however linger briefly in attempt to address why I was not hooked. I decided it was the colours/tones/tints of his post processing work that to me created an artificial view of nature. I’m sure Mr Cornish has a reason for displaying his images in this style, maybe I can find out more and perhaps  with more experience of “reading” photographs, my views will change.

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Some of Joe’s more dramatic or creative shots did draw and hold my attention, for example the design aspects of the two images below. The shots are sharp and clean, the angles lead my eye up, down and around on a roller coaster ride. I found these images a useful study guide while working on my Elements of Design module.

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Johannes Vermeer
Rijks Museum, Amsterdam (August 2013)

When I first saw the works of Vermeer, I was astounded by the richness and brilliance of the colours and how well preserved they were. So beautiful were these paintings that they actually brought a tear to my eye! I discovered that the Dutch Master was limited to a palette of  twenty pigments, but he used them well – layering the paint, to create an intensity and depth that is as close to real, as real!

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The Milkmaid (circa 1658) oil on canvas, (left and centre). Here Vermeer uses light to enhance the colour and character of the image, the rear wall is lit and one imagines the early morning sun streaming in through the window.  The light highlighting the detail of the items on the table evokes texture  – the freshness of the bread and the creaminess of the milk – Stunning work.  For The Girl with the Wine Glass  1659 (right), Vermeer uses the brilliance of red ochre. In my opinion, the use of red to the fore of the painting implies boldness and power. The lady is smiling at the viewer implying she is in control of the situation, not her admirer! Again the use of the bright blue and yellow are also present.

 

Joss McKinley “Gathering Wool”.
“Foam Gallery”, Amsterdam  (August 2013)

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Whilst in Amsterdam we also visited “Foam”, a photographic gallery, to view McKinley’s exhibition “Gathering wool” or daydreaming. The title of his work originates from the time when farmers’ wives and daughters enjoyed quiet moments while they gathered the wool left behind by sheep in the bushes and hedges. McKinley’s project is concerned with the human desire for nature, time, peace and quiet. His subjects are poised, unaware in thought, consideration or sleep. Sun is the common thread in these works, introducing light and shadow.

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