Category Archives: Art

Short Circuits and BLOCassembly 3

Some new words and pictures online.

Firstly, BLOCassembly 3, a video-art event at BLOCspace a couple of weeks ago. I’ve written up my night’s experiences, with a few photos included, on the FAD blog.

Secondly, Short Circuits, an evening of short films and performances last week, including live performances by WebsterGotts and Hotsnack. Again, I’ve written it up for FAD and also posted an extended set of photos on this site.

Tom Hunter – Living in Hell

More bitchin’… (originally posted on the FAD blog)

I went to see Tom Hunter‘s exhibition of photographs Living in Hell and Other Stories at the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield this weekend.

I’d seen this show before at the National Gallery in London (Hunter is apparently the first photographer to have a solo show there). At the time I was impressed by some of the ideas, the compositions, and the lighting in the works, but not that happy with other technical aspects of the photos. A great many of them seemed slightly soft, mainly because of movement during the long exposures but also the focus seemed a bit out here-and-there (admittedly two metre wide prints can be quite unforgiving, but still…). Also I wasn’t sure that he’d best managed the large dynamic range of some of the pictures (from white-out halos around streetlights to hidden darknesses in the shadows).

Seeing the show for a second time, I was even more disappointed. So many aspects of Hunter’s work seemed not quite right. I wondered whether the many imperfections might be deliberate, but I’m sure this is not the case.

As well as Hunter’s interpretations of local newspaper headlines in the style of the Flemish masters, the show included photos of Hackney landscapes which weren’t present in the National Gallery exhibition. These seemed eerily similar to some of the landscapes which I’ve tried and failed to photograph recently. Hunter failed in similar ways and for similar reasons to me. And here’s a clue to what annoyed me so much about this exhibition: I was overwhelmed with feelings that “I could (and do) do that”. Not that I claim I could do better (for one thing, Hunter’s handling of light is on the whole better than mine, although I wish he’d pay more attention to the notion of white balance). But Hunter’s mistakes seem to be exactly the same as the ones I make as a journeyman photographer, and I would expect the National Gallery to only offer such a great privilege to somebody with a far greater mastery of the medium.

While I was there, I also picked up a copy of the (excellent) magazine Photoworks. Inside was Ian Jeffrey’s review of Living in Hell and Other Stories. Once I’d got around Jeffrey’s writing style (Jeffrey needs to, as he might himself say, eschew the essentially obfuschatory constituent of his esoteric argot), I realised that Jeffrey wasn’t very impressed either. He touched briefly on the technical aspects of Hunter’s works, and concedes that Hunter’s sloppiness may be “nothing more than a contemporary manner”, but Jeffrey takes great issue with the inspiration behind these “New Masters”. Copying the old masters is nothing new (neither is it unique to photography: plenty of old masters themselves copied older masters), but Hunter does not do it terribly well. Jeffrey scents a hidden purpose: perhaps this is all a cynical marketing plot by the National Gallery, a way of getting the general public to take more interest in their collection of old paintings via the slightly sexier medium of modern photography. It’s a moot point, and one argued in a slightly clumsy manner, but the fact remains that Hunter’s works feel immature and not fully formed.

On the plus side, the photographs are beautifully printed on metallic paper (a current obsession of mine), hung well, and are well worth a look at if only to see whether or not you agree with me. Plus while you’re there you can see some of the other wonderful works in the Graves Gallery’s collection.

Heavenly Bodies

Works by Peep

On Thursday, Mark came to Sheffield and we visited the artistst Peep (Paul P Priestley) in his studio.

I took lots of photos. I was blown away by his work. It was incredibly varied, but almost all of it drew heavily upon religious sources (in particular, the Bible) and featured salvaged and adapted childrens’ toys (often motorised) in the guises of various mythical beings. Incredible, like Jan Svankmajer does Dante only gaudier and more beautiful. I absolutely love his work, I don’t remember ever being quite this excited about a living artist. I hope to produce a piece on him for FAD, although at the moment I’m not quite sure where to start.

Carel Weight – Child’s Wonderment

Detail of Dan's new facial hair

Recently in Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery I spotted this painting, “Child’s Wonderment” by Carel Weight, dated 1975. It leapt out at me instantly. There are so many things that I love about it. In particular, the scene reminds me of the riverside in Twickenham, just past Syon Park Gardens and near the entrance to Marble Hill Park (which may well be where it was painted; if so, it was completed about 2 or 3 years after I used to spend so much of my time there with my mum. Who knows, that child could be me). Also the composition really appealed to me; I didn’t realise this at the time, but there’s something about it very reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s The Scream: the boy’s pose, the railings, the river. Finally, the style of the painting really appeals to me, I love this largely realist but slightly expressionist style which was popular mainly in the first half of the 20th century, and which feels incredibly English. I’d never heard of Carel Weight before, but having fallen in love with this picture and just hunted out a few more of his works online, his is a name I shall definitely look out for. I’ll definitely be visiting Doncaster again too: their very small art gallery has some real little gems, and I always come out of there feeling uplifted.