All posts filed under: Fine Art

Jo Spence’s iconoclastic self-portraits ridiculing outmoded gender stereotypes

‘It is essential that this important exhibition is seen by as many women as possible. To do this we need money – to make it fit to travel all over Britain. Please help and send donations to:- “The Hackney Flashers Collective” who took all the photographs and organised it.’ Written in red marker pen, the appeal appears on a poster made in 1975 by socialist-feminist collective The Hackney Flashers. With their travelling exhibitions, Jo Spence and other members created influential agitprop materials as a way of confronting social prejudices. Their black-and-white prints – of women at work in factories; female machinists hunched over sewing machines; a mother holding a saucepan over the stove and a baby on her hip – helped campaign for equal pay in the workplace and better childcare provisions. “They wanted to operate in society and not as part of the art world,” says Elena Crippa, who curated the retrospective of Jo Spence’s work at Tate Britain. Using the flash of the camera as a pun on the revealing nature of photography, The Hackney Flashers …

2016-03-08T11:18:45+00:00

fanon wide

Frantz Fanon’s psychology of race, in photographs

In 2015, the cross-pollination of races occurs freely and globally. Yet it is easy to overlook the complex process of identification that a mixed-race person must confront. For in each race’s DNA is a history, culture and psychology that are all too-often defined in isolation. In his most recent series, Frantz Fanon, which tracks the life of the iconic 20th century thinker, Bruno Boudjelal has continued his career tradition of using photography to untangle the rich web of his own mixed identity. Frantz Fanon is widely regarded as the definitive post-colonial theorist. Born in Martinique, he traveled to France to fight in the Second World War before settling in North Africa, working as a psychiatrist in a small town, Blida, 50 miles from the Algerian capital. It was here, in the years leading up to both its release and Fanon’s death in 1961, that he wrote his chilling account of the psychological effects of colonialism and decolonization on the native Algerian population, Les Damnés de la Terre – ‘The Wretched of the Earth.’   “For …

2015-11-05T19:31:02+00:00

The line between market kitsch and aesthetic value

When Krakow’s Museum of Contemporary Art asked Anna Orłowska and Mateusz Choróbski to create a story themed ‘art market’ for its Forum magazine, the pair turned to a bustling street fair in the small town of Radomsko. “We had two weeks to think of an idea and realise it,” says Choróbski. “We visited the market a few times, bought objects we thought would work, and then photographed them in different configurations. We usually work on projects for a long time, so it was both refreshing and challenging to do this in such a short period.” The idea behind Tribute to Moda Polska (which translates as ‘Polish fashion’) was to transform ordinary items into art objects, says Orłowska, who featured in BJP’s June 2013 issue. “This ironic gesture was made to reflect on the value of contemporary art,” explains the 29-year-old, who studied at the national film school in Łodz. “Where is the line between market kitsch and objects of aesthetic value?” The series is also “a tribute to important places in Polish towns and cities”, comments Choróbski, an …

2015-11-03T12:53:48+00:00

Symbolic portraits locating femininity between two cultures

Ritual, family heritage and decorative costumes are at the heart of Marie Hudelot’s series of portraits. Dressing her subjects with jewels, feathers, flowers and ribbons, she explores themes of femininity, honour, seduction and youthfulness. “I wanted to create a set of symbolic portraits inspired by my background,” explains Hudelot, born in Toulon in 1981. “My mother is Algerian and my father is French. I used the pictorial tradition of still life and created characters where the objects [they hold or wear] come from different customs.” The series is partly inspired by the 1983 Woody Allen mockumentary Zelig, about a man (played by Allen) who changes his character to fit in with the people around him. “This film was a reference in that I wanted to create caricatures, but not in a critical way,” she explains. “The idea was to suggest different characters.” One of the central themes running through the work is the notion of femininity. “Growing up, I learned different things about what it means to be a woman,” says Hudelot. “For example, in Algerian culture, women often have …

2015-10-19T10:44:11+00:00

Breathe copy

How photography is just like photosynthesis

The photography of Alice Cazenave, as much a scientist as an artist, is intriguing, her methods of construction ambiguous. In her work Breathe a ghostly portrait emerges from the fragile architecture of a geranium leaf. It’s one of the first images created through a new photographic process Cazenave calls Pelargonium printing. Although pushing photography in exciting new directions, Cazenave’s new process engages with some of the medium’s longstanding concerns: light, time and memory. The concept of a photograph as an “exact trace of light, shadow, time and space” is paramount to the artist. She cites Susan Sontag’s On Photography, regarding the process of looking at a photograph: “‘The photograph of the missing being will touch me like the delayed rays of a star’ – I think it’s a beautiful way to explain photography,” she says. Having recently lost someone close to her, the artist places great value on: “The notion that light can freeze time for the keeping, as a physical keepsake.” Cazenave’s interest in photography was piqued at an early age when a school teacher introduced her …

2015-09-24T16:09:55+00:00

Gammelyn's Daughter

The dreamlike fairytales of Kirsty Mitchell

For Kirsty Mitchell, photography can be an escape hatch. “The basis of that was reality was awful and I needed to create something that allowed me to block everything out. In 2007, my life was at a bit of a crossroads. I’d been unwell and found myself becoming quite introverted. I picked up a camera and it became this voice for me when I couldn’t talk about what I was going through.” When her mother Maureen was diagnosed with a brain tumour, the medium’s capacity for transformation helped her deal with the trauma of losing a parent. She began her project, Wonderland, in the summer of 2009, as a small project to help her make sense of her grief. “The only way I could deal with it was [through] photography. It was this absolute rage that went through me and I threw myself into something obsessively. I started taking hundreds of photographs constantly, to lose myself in something other than what I was dealing with.” Comprised of otherworldly images that can feel like fragments from a …

2015-09-23T10:10:37+00:00

Thomas Albdorf’s manufactures beauty and uncertainty by mixing the natural and the digital

BJP

Thomas Albdorf’s still lifes are never quite what they seem – the more you look, the more the perspectives, shapes and colours shift, reflecting the Austrian photographer’s interest in manufacturing beauty and uncertainty out of the seemingly mundane. “What fascinates me when I look at art created by other people is how they engage with simple objects within their immediate reach,” he says. “I feel drawn to people who manage to create something very beautiful and charming out of almost nothing.” Albdorf’s immediate surroundings are the outskirts of Vienna, an area he wandered in search of raw material for his Former Writer series. Seizing on wood, wire, tyres and fridges, he created a kind of ‘edgelands’ trash art, sometimes adding paint to enhance the sense of uncertainty. “I used to do graffiti writing but I stopped at an early age because it’s quite superficial,” he says. “But as I was wandering the peripheries of Vienna, I saw tags and I wanted to use a spray can again. “I like the idea because one of the easiest tools to use …

2015-09-14T12:31:20+00:00

Keith Arnatt, Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self, 1969 copy

Keith Arnatt: the conceptual photographer who influenced a generation

Unless you’re well-versed in the British conceptual art scene of the 1970s, Keith Arnatt’s name might not register the strongest recognition. Yet, Arnatt has a case for being one of the most influential British artists and photographers of his generation, pushing the boundaries of his mediums and going on to be a chief influence on the likes of Martin Parr and Paul Graham. A major exhibition of his work, Absence of the Artist, is currently showing at Sprüth Magers in London, marking the years between 1967 and 1972 during which some of Arnatt’s most vital and enduring work was created. Today, artists and photographers freely cross the boundaries between what was once considered ‘art’ and ‘photography’. But Arnatt, who studied philosophy at Oxford and trained in drawing and painting at the Royal Academy School in London in the late 1950s, was a pioneer in bringing conceptual ideas from the sphere of art to photography. The early phase of his career explored the boundaries between landscape and sculpture, echoing the work of artists like Richard Long and …

2015-09-04T16:21:43+00:00

The angels of lot (Gli angeli di lot), 2008. From Sodom and Gomorrah © Alessandro Bavari

Alessandro Bavari – in the belly of the beast

There are many disparate moments in Alessandro Bavari’s childhood that inform the artist he is today – watching tadpoles hatch, the first time he walked into a Gothic church in Burgundy, losing grip of a balloon and seeing it bob away, meeting its fate against a rose bush. He says these impressions are so profound – a sensation, a feeling of wonder, a sound – they occasionally crop up in his work. Bavari uses mixed-media techniques to create a unique body of work that incorporates both photography and film. He often draws on literary influences, offering his own interpretation using model sets, organic objects, photography and digital manipulation. The results are often macabre, and sometimes irreverent. His ongoing series, Sodom and Gomorrah, is one such unique fusion of media. “Sodom and Gomorrah was first conceived 15 years ago. I was inspired by Invisible Cities, a novel by Italo Calvino, written and published in the 1970s, but which he cultivated over many years through travel notes and reflections, and organised by themes – the five senses, …

2015-08-11T14:29:17+00:00

A still-life love-letter to an East London lost to money

Dalston’s Ridley Road Market is an East London institution, but to a newcomer it can feel like an overwhelming assault of sights, sounds and smells. At once thrillingly vibrant yet strangely anachronistic, the market is the sort of place where you’re as likely to pick up a goat’s head or a Giant African land snail as you are hair extensions or an international phone card. It has been a focal point for the area’s diverse demographic since the 1880s, and apparently inspired the fictional market in BBC1’s Eastenders. Yet in recent years gentrification has laid claim to much of the surrounding area, threatening the delicate balance of this microcosm of East London life. That this complex and captivating social nexus might be lost for future generations has been one of the main motivations for photographer and local resident Lorenzo Vitturi, putting his successful advertising career on hold for a year in order to explore it more thoroughly. “I wanted to do a project before gentrification completely transformed the area,” he explains. “Even while working in advertising, …

2015-07-21T12:05:50+00:00

BJP Staff