Monday, 29 May 2017

Guye, Pol Roger & Mackie, Blank

One of my highlights during the PhotoLondon week is getting the all the exhibitions that I've been meaning to get too and revisiting the ones that I loved so much, I just can't get enough! That was certainly the case in the wonderful Irma Blank exhibition Life Time, at Alison Jacques Gallery; Since the late 1960s, Blank's singular production has focused on the recording of time as gesture. In her drawings and paintings time is inscribed as a material record of life through the material traces of the artist's labour. Located between drawing and writing, the work evokes the space of the book but encompasses paintings on canvas and paper, screen-prints and drawings in pastel, pencil and ink. 

Irma said, "Writing is the home of being. I free writing from sense and highlight its structure, its skeleton, the nude sign, the sign that is such and does not refer back to anything but itself. It refers to the energy reserve, to the initial drive, the source-giving urge, the desire to reveal itself, to emerge from the secret, closed place of night."

I was delighted to manage to make the last day of Christina Mackie's new show, Drift Rust at Herald Street Gallery which closed on Sunday 22 May. I absolutely love Mackie's practice and this exhibition certainly did not disappoint. She has such an astounding ability to understand and present materiality in it's purest form, here is an excerpt from the press release, "Materials resisting catergorisation from her studio are assembled in momentary synthesis as the viewer encounters sculptural sequences, video projection, ceramics, watercolours and oil paintings...Resisting the traps of rational systems of classification and narrative containment, she encourages associative leaps rather than resting on, or seeking, any single objective truth. Visual and cognitive meandering on the part of the viewer is prompted and encouraged."

This intermixed with meeting new and old friends, sipping Champagne and taking in gallery meals, adventures off to Peckham 24 and making plans for future projects, to me, is really what those fair weeks are all about.

Post PhotoLondon 2017

So May is nearly over and another month has passed. The crowds have been and gone and the city gets back to business as usual. This year saw the third edition of PhotoLondon at Somerset House and with this still young and establishing fair, a collection of works and rooms that at times work wonders intermixed with a commercial maze that does little to inspire or attract. What I always find so interestingly difficult is the sheer volume of work that is exhibited. Whether over or underwhelming, with so much imagery surrounding us on a daily basis, entering a fair like this demands a clarify of the visual mind, that I feel is almost impossible to have in our current cultural climate. For me, such fairs always present us with a problem to resolve at the first hurdle; how to consume when you have already been consumed?

I think what is also very important to note is that for the last two years of this three year venture to date, the city in which the fair is held is changing in ways many thought wouldn't or couldn't be possible. The socio-political landscape is shaping our future in a way I personally didn't believe would happen so quickly. We are now living in historical times, quietly, softly, passively watching and waiting as the next wave crashes over upon us and we all reappear, half drowned and dazed, but carrying on our daily lives. I had hoped for a gentle sheer, a nod to this in the work that was exhibited but I must admit, this work was somewhat missing. Maybe it is too close, but I was surprised to see a distinct lack of work that engaged on this level, when last year Wolfgang Tillman's Brexit Posters where so beautifully pinned. 

For me, some of the most stunning imagery was found within the 2017 Pavilion and especially in the new gallery editions to the fair this year, of which these Alison Jacques and Victoria Miro were two. The sensual, poetic and tender moments presented at Victoria Miro with works by Issac Julien and his work entitled Looking for Langston (1989/2017) which is currently showing at the gallery until the end of July. The large scale silver gelatin prints hung in the booth empowered. These images intermixed with the tender, exquisite small prints by Francesca Woodman made for one of the best booths at the entire fair. 
Closely positioned was Alison Jacques whose Robert Mapplethrope's and Catherine Yass prints. A huge fan of both artists it was wonderful see the large scale Mapplethrope's, seductive and sensual with the harder, high saturated and process based Yass'. A very clean, considered and sharp booth that was a pleasure to see. 

This years edition was undoubtedly an improvement from the previous years and with the new Matt Collishaw exhibit uusing the latest VR technology to restaged Fox Talbot’s pioneering 1839 exhibition of photography through careful digital reconstructions, it brought both old and new technologies to the same stage without 'that' need to question, digital vs analogue. It will be interesting to see what the next year brings.  

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