Saturday, 24 September 2011

Dark Matters - Shadow_Technology_Art at the Whitworth Art Gallery

Dark Matters looks both backwards to the earliest fascinations with shadow and projection, and forwards to the newest technologies. The gallery is kept in an erie semidarkness and becomes a place of wonder and mystery which perhaps replicates the experience of the first viewers of the camera obscurer and magic lantern.

The exhibition showcases the work of 10 artists, whose work ranges from the small and subtle to the monumental. In a preview evening, the larger works are bound to make more impact, and I was captivated by Brass Art's new work, Still Life No. 1. A table is covered by human and animal figures cast in transparent material using new technology in digital mapping, and constructed by hand out of crushed cellophane  A rotating light source casts ephemeral looming shadows which transverse the gallery walls.  On the other side of the gallery, but equally impressive, huge monochrome watercolours depict shadows of the moment of contact between the artists and insects.

Kiss (2011) by R. Luke DuBois uses a digital rendering technique to animate 50 iconic film kisses, turning them into a spiders web of light, with the actors faces seen only in silhouette.

Daniel Rozin is showing two fascinating pieces, where we see ourselves, always the most interesting subject, reproduced in the work. Peg Mirror (2007) uses a tiny camera and 650 circular wooden pegs which rotate and tilt, and whose subtle shadows create a vague and pixillated image of the viewer. Snow Mirror (2006) uses digital technology to project an image made up of softly moving points of light, which coalesce into momentarily recognisable figures.

A performance piece by Ja-Young Ku uses layers of shadow and projection to interact with his own image, creating a playful and mesmerising exploration of reality and illusion.

The exhibition is fascinating and I highly recommend a visit.  I will be returning soon for another look.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

'Like you've never been away' - Photographs by Paul Trevor

On 17th Feb 2008, photographer Paul Trevor received an e-mail out of the blue.

"...In 1975 I was a young 13 year old and remember you coming to our street, Mozart St in Liverpool 8... You came out with the kids and parents on our street outings... I also remember you taking photos of my friends and me in our 'den'... If you are the same Paul as I remember I would love you to contact me because I would love to see some of the photo's if they still exist. Yours hopefully, Ian Boland."

The photos did indeed exist. Paul had spent six months in Liverpool in taking photographs for a project documenting inner city deprivation.  He had thousands of photographs of Toxteth and Everton, very few of which had ever been shown publicly.

This captivating exhibition at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool documents both the photographic record of that period, and Paul's experience of returning to Liverpool to find some of the people he met and photographed nearly 40 years ago.

I loved the exhibition.  And people clearly loved and trusted Paul.  As he said in the film which is a central part of the exhibition, it would be impossible today to take these pictures of children playing.  But in the 70's there was no such limitation, and as a result, two very different cultures came together, either side of the camera, and got to know each other.  And they clearly still felt connected. One woman said "It's like you've never been away, Paul.", giving the exhibition its title.

The poverty shown in the photographs is quite shocking, the dirt, the clothes full of holes, the dangerous play of the children, leaning over the balcony of a tower block, setting a fire in an empty house.  But others show great joy and community cohesion.  Paul also discovered some sad stories on his visit back to Liverpool, the boy looking through the frame who died young of a drug overdose, the breakup of communities for 'redevelopment'.

I hope that the project which began in 1975 and was revived by that 2008 e-mail will continue, and that Paul will take more remarkable pictures of this now dispersed community.

All photographs copyright Paul Trevor

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Manchester Cloth, an exhibition by Gemma Lacey, Helen Mather, Mandy Tolley and Kiran Williams

For the last year, Gemma Lacy, Helen Mather, Mandy Tolley and Kiran Williams have been exploring their practice in a collaboration called the Exquisite Corpse Project. They each brought to their first meeting a piece of unresolved work. Each piece was passed on to one of the other artists, to work with, work on, develop or deconstruct as they saw fit. This process happened four times, so that each artist has contributed to each sub-project, and the whole was exhibited for a day in Chorlton, Manchester this weekend.

Of the four pieces my favourite was 'Rabbit Hood. It began as a hessian cap with bunny ears attached, the next artist evoking memories of dressing up as a child, added a cloak and some printing of butterflies.

The third artist, inspired by the darning on an Egyptian top in Manchester Museum, added darning and photographed the hood and cloak in a wood with a backdrop of autumnal sunshine and leaves creating a 'beakbook' which is folded such that part of the content is hidden.

The final artist took the hidden and secretive quality of the book, and created a finished piece in which a beautifully constructed lining is hidden within the cloak and the hood. The cloak also has a row of buttons which close the garment completely. On opening the cloak, a complete fantasy scene is revealed, an interpretation of William Morris's 'Strawberry Thief'.  The darning on the hessian is revealed with lined peepholes, sewn into the lining.

The artists also recorded the process in a blog which, though brief, gives some insight into the way the artists worked together.

This is a fascinating collaboration, not just because of the outcomes, which were visually very rich, but also because of the level of openness and trust that the artists have shown, in their lack of 'preciousness' about their work, in their joint 'ownership' of the the work, in their generosity towards each other.  I'm looking forward to seeing more collaborative work by this interesting group of artists.