OUT OF FOCUS- PHOTOGRAPHY- SAATCHI GALLERY

Saatchi Gallery, Duke Of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London, SW3 4RY
10am-6pm, 7 days a week, last entry 5:30pm
Admission is free to all exhibitions

There is a brilliant exhibition on at the Saatchi Gallery  until 15th July 2012, with many examples of how photography can be used to create works of art by a wide range of artists. I was truly inspired by the ingenious processes, methods of display and subject matter on show. Here is a list of participating artists.

Michele Abeles, L. Raphael Agbodjélou, Olaf Breuning, Jonny Briggs, Broomberg & Chanarin, Elina Brotherus, Anders Clausen, Mat Collishaw, JH Engström, Mitch Epstein, Andreas Gefeller, Luis Gispert, Daniel Gordon, Noémie Goudal, Katy Grannan, Matthew Day Jackson, Chris Levine, Matt Lipps, Ryan McGinley, Mohau Modisakeng, Laurel Nakadate, Sohei Nishino, David Noonan, Marlo Pascual, Mariah Robertson, Phoebe Rudomin, Hannah Sawtell, David Benjamin Sherry, Berndnaut Smilde, Meredyth Sparks, Hannah Starkey,  A.L. Steiner, John Stezaker, Mikhael Subotzky, Yumiko Utsu, Sara VanDerBeek, Nicole Wermers, Jennifer West, Pinar Yolaçan

    Mariah Robertson ” Who said a print had to meekly accept being confined to a frame? Why can’t it ripple along a floor, up a wall and across  a ceiling?”  

 Robertson is an artist that paints with photography, disregarding convention and utilizing the accidental. I believe much of her experimentation happens in the dark room, where she manipulates traditional dark room processes.
It reminded me of how once I had left a roll of film in a drawer  (2001) with a spilled pot of baby bio and when I took the film to be processed, strange plant like melting forms appeared instead of any photographs. I told this to an artist once who tried to recreate the same process but they said nothing happened.

I was looking down upon the above artwork and took a photo (on left) which reminded me of a reflection in a pool. Some of her work looks like chemicals have been splashed over, to take away colour or  to merge colour so it has a ‘liquified’ feel to it. I could see elements from reality but the layering and merging of  forms make the subject hard to decipher, so I just enjoyed the colours and depth that I could lose myself in. I could see there were  two distinct bodies of work and I perhaps  preferred the expressiveness of the abstract photographs as they looked so much like paintings. However, I really enjoyed the more figurative black and white photographs which focussed on areas of the body. I am not sure how these were made; Photograms/solarisation techniques? but they reminded me of Matisse paintings, where the body becomes merged with the patterns in the background or a study in tone, like a Morandi still life. They look straight forward, yet I also felt they were original and exciting.


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This last image shown above, is called ‘Elbosco’ and it looks very much like The Garden of Earthly Delights by  Hieronymus Bosch.  I found the image from the Saatchi website and so was not on display.  I love the original painting, which you can see in the flesh at the Prado  in Madrid, but I also  love the darkness and distortion of this photograph by Robertson
  • Portrait of the Queen 
This portrait of the Queen by Chris Levine is fantastic. It evokes so many thoughts, such as serenity, natural, yet composed, intentional and completely modern. I have imported the text from the Saatchi website,  by William A Ewing as it succinctly captures Levine’s process and outcome.  It was a happy ‘accident’ that resulted in Chris Levine’s meditative portrait of Queen Elizabeth II
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  • He had set out on a commission to commemorate the Isle of Jersey’s 800th year of allegiance to the crown in a holographic portrait, a process that involved an extraordinary technological array: a high-resolution digital camera which moved along a rail taking 200 images over eight seconds, a 3-D data scanner and a medium format camera which he could use, if necessary, to capture information he could texture-map onto the 3-D data sets.
  • The queen was required to sit still for 8 seconds at a time, and between the passes she closed her eyes to rest. Levine was struck by the beauty of her meditative state and snapped the shutter. A picture like this would have been inconceivable even 20 years ago. The formal portrait has for some time been fraying around the edges, but now in our paparazzi culture it reads as entirely bogus.
  • Closed eyes were reserved for great singers and musicians, who were in tune with another world; Kings, Queens and statesmen had to have their eyes open and fixed firmly on the here-and-now. In recent years, the Queen has been fair game for subversive image-makers. Tibor Kalman imagined her as a black woman in his series What if?, while Alison Jackson made her out to be, well, just like the rest of us. Yousuf Karsh would role over in his grave. “

Another perhaps more regal portrait is this image made by Katy Grannan.

Her work is displayed in an entire room at the gallery and was the first artist I encountered. Her work is brutally honest, with the harsh Californian sun beating down upon each person. The detail is so clear in these large-scale photographs,  that  I began to stare unabashed; noticing imperfections, such as stains on their clothes,  their jewellery, creases of age and sun damage and how they had their hair.

These characters appear like tokens from a crowd, a cross-section of Californian people, marked out against a stony white wall and as if caught in a moment of passing by… They had agreed to be photographed and therefore agreed perhaps to be judged and meticulously observed.  They are not my idea of a  stereotypical Californian, or are they? There is a sense of an awkwardness, yet not in their pose or expression. In the exhibition blurb, the people are described as ‘prideful in their individuality’, yet the photographs defies the airbrushed, perfected hollywood image of celebrities.

Some of the figures soak up the celebrity culture in their styling, but in a human, physical way which can not defy aging like in the movies. This is reality, this is how it really is and they are proud and exotic in their own right.

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  • I really loved Noemie Goudal’s work. It was poetic, clever, romantic and right up my street. I myself, make small table top models with natural and man made objects  and  create back drops to paint from. She however, takes the model outside and makes it actual size. The model is the real environment, which she  manipulates and adorns to confuse the boundaries of the real and the stage set. I had never thought of this and it is brilliant.

Her work did seem a little overshadowed by three major pieces, by the artist Mat Collishaw, but perhaps this was the intention, that they skulk in the darkness behind his  cloth pegged cat, which perhaps should be idolised or worshipped by the audience.

 I have extracted the following information from the Saatchi website:
  • Mat Collishaw states: “The type of adverts to be found on television and in glossy magazines are visually designed to have a power over the mind before they can even be questioned. The dark side of my work, primarily concerns the internal mechanisms of visual imagery and how these mechanisms address the mind.”
Corona

Madonna
  • Corona and Madonna have a historically epic quality. Corona disturbingly implies early 20th Century experimentation, Madonna’s timeless face is cropped from a photograph of an Indian woman taken after her village was destroyed in a flood. These tragic images seem all too contemporary with their digitised high-gloss finish. However, their surfaces aren’t photographs at all, rather they’re made up of tiny, cold ceramic tiles. Mat Collishaw uses mosaic to immortalise his subjects the same way images of saints and martyrs were rendered in early churches, but by doing so he replicates the process of image transmission over the internet.
Eighth Day

  • Mat Collishaw can always find the intrinsically evil in photography. His subjects are often shocking and horrific – but it’s always the medium which is most disturbing. In The Eighth Day, Collishaw reproduces a photo of a real lynching found in an old book – but he does it in a monumental mosaic. Originally used in ancient times to immortalise gods, saints, and martyrs, mosaics were used to preserve timeless morals. But there’s something freakishly futuristic about Collishaw’s epic – black and white images are a modern invention, the miniscule tiles convincingly parody computer pixellation.”
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