JUST UNDER THE SURFACE

Just under the surface is a collaborative exhibition organised by Helen Fox and Colette Davies in the old market hall in Douglas, Isle of Man.  The space was crafted from the central section of the market hall – normally used for fine art teaching and therefore part of The Isle of Man College.  The exhibition showed 8 artists, all associated with the MA Fine Art and Education programme at Northumbria, it therefore included a variety of work and intention. Helen Fox’s cliff of clay, referencing the extreme coastal erosion of the beach at the village of Kirk Michael,  dominated one end of the space, but linked in with the photography of Judy Thomas and the body prints of Collete Davies and the associated shadow pieces on recycled lead displayed by Collete in nearby cabinets.

I showed three pieces, two as continuations of the ’36 views project’ and one exploring a new direction.  The first piece was a second variation of the installation called:  ‘36 views of steam blowing from a chipboard factory’, which was first exhibited at Northumbria University in February.

from Artist’s statement:

Inspired by the photography of Bernd and Hilla Becher and the printmaking of Katsushika Hokusai and the many artists who have arranged the world in grids, ‘36 views of steam blowing from a chipboard factory’ creates a circle of distance around the landmark factory’s constant but ever changing smoke trail.   The captured images are appropriately pinned behind glass in chipboard frames, already fading into the mechanical wood, pressed and steamed into perfect squares.

A second development piece from this theme was the showing of two large scale cyanotypes using text printed onto A2 sized watercolour paper. These attracted some interest and linked to new ideas formulated about the scientific links of this process with its historical origins and its look of a kind of ‘chemical staining’.

From Artist’s statement:

Plume’ captures a cloud of words defining permitted exposure to emissions from a smoke stack. Cyanotype is one of the founding processes of photographic practice, originally used and defined by Sir John Herschel, Astronomer Royal, to capture his notes, written on glass. A very simple reaction between two chemicals and UV (sun)light fixes an image in rich Prussian blue into the surface of paper.

IOM march2016-9

A third piece was a very speculative attempt to show some ‘straight’ photography – works that were minimally edited and single media.  I wanted to examine the issues with working in this style.  I showed 10 identically printed digital prints from 120 film negatives taken on a historic camera – A Yashica 165 twin lens camera.  The images were taken on a school trip to Barcelona.  There are issues raised by the exhibition of prints on a ‘bulldog clip washing line’ to be discussed in a future  post.

from artist’s statement:

Photographic images can create a distance from the object or place that has been captured, even at the same time as the viewer’s gaze is invited to penetrate the surface of the image to find space or meaning. Cultural Distance (Barcelona) separates empty museum spaces from the promise of a more vibrant city outside.

The exhibition was reviewed on Manx Radio in their arts programme.  There was a very well attended private view with lots of very positive interactions, for me a chance to make a piece of work live collaborating with members of an informal audience, documented here.

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