A new collection of photos taken on 35mm film. More on my Flickr here.
Sunday, 30 November 2014
Sunday, 2 November 2014
From Thursday 23rd October, London's Courtauld gallery plays host to the works of the late Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele. The exhibition is entitled 'Egon Schiele: The Radical Nudes', focussing specifically on the most controversial theme of Schiele's oeuvre: nakedness.
Radical is a profoundly accurate way to describe Schiele's work. Active throughout the first two decades of the twentieth- century, he produced rich and complex pieces that shocked the world, and the waves are still being felt today. Whilst there is no denying his ground-breaking and innovative status, 'radical' infers something basal, organic and primitive is at play. Schiele's nudes have an urgent rawness to them, from the imperfect, mottled skin to the harsh, scratchy outlines. Fibrous limbs are joined by knobbly knees and uncomfortable looking elbows. They are not pretty. Despite this, a kind of churlish beauty can be found in the vibrant honesty of Schiele's pen and brush strokes.
In his biography Egon Schiele, 1890-1918: The Midnight Soul of the Artist, Reinhard Steiner draws our attention to a section from one of Schiele's own poems: 'Artists are quick to sense/ the great trembling light,/ the warmth,/ the breathing of living creatures.' Schiele's nudes contain an inherent sense of movement that is the trademark of the impressionist, and it is this distinct sense of being alive and 'breathing' that engages, attracts and repels the viewer. The nudes are not simply anatomically correct descriptions of the human body, but something deeper, more animate and cognizant.
The viewer is intensely aware of the truth of Schiele's bodies, and they ultimately leave us with a sense of uneasy familiarity. We are owners of bodies just like these, and yet our immediate reaction is to reject them as obscene. By contemplating why we have such a response, we can learn something about how we understand our own bodies.
Schiele's nudes are the antithesis to the cold, smooth perfection of classical nudes, which are generally appreciated as otherworldly entities, in no way related to wonky, ugly, hairy real bodies. In modern times, a similar obsession with bodily perfection has resulted in a skewed perception of what our own bodies should, and do, look like. Schiele's work allows us to reconsider the reality of our own bodily forms by thrusting them in our faces.
Aggressive, grotesque and disturbing are all descriptions that have been levelled at Schiele's work, and the passing of time does nothing to dull our reactions. Even the most open-minded viewer cannot help but feel uneasy at his distinctly imperfect bodies. In our hyper-sexualised modern world, we must ask how and why Schiele's nudes still have the power to shock, and consider how we can channel our immediate knee-jerk responses into something more productive.
Posted by me at 13:53
Sunday, 12 October 2014
Chinese photographer Ren-Hang's work betrays an obsession with bodily forms and an almost perverse want to distort them, often to the point of obscurity. His images recall the fetishism of Guy Bourdin, but are given a high-key kind of modernity. Harsh lighting and white backdrops render the subjects surreal and bizarre. They are allowed no context, and so their bodies too become removed from the scrutinies of reality. We are left free to consider the forms, shapes and textures for their own sake. Whilst there is no denying that many of his images are motivated by sexuality, they are ultimately a study of the human anatomy that lays the body so bare it goes beyond the sexual to somewhere wholly biological.
Posted by me at 14:22
Tuesday, 7 October 2014
Brad McMurray is a Vancouver based photographer. His work frames the mundane and forces us to re-examine bleak forgotten spaces that are endlessly recognisable and yet continuously overlooked. His rusty, dusty industrial landscapes are broken and dirty, and yet there seems to be an essential beauty in the world he conjures. McMurray's skill lies in his ability to look beneath the surface and uncover a harmonious composition of lines, shapes and textures.
The photographic equivalent of Duchamp's Fountain and Emin's My Bed, McMurray's work follows in the historical footsteps of art that reconstitutes our perception of everyday life simply by telling us to look at it. That which would otherwise be ignored is given a new existence as the surreal subject of a perfectly composed scene. It might at times seem bizarre or odd, but the overriding sensation is one of déjà vu. We all inhabit these spaces, and yet only by understanding them as McMurray does can we truly see them.
Posted by me at 13:18
Monday, 6 October 2014
Christopher Schoonover is a New York based portrait and fashion photographer. One look at his photos reveals a heavy mix of inspirations: they are at once nineties grunge, seventies neo- noir and sixties kitsch. His choice of setting uses the same layering of time periods; there are bingo halls, flamingo wallpapered bathrooms and boardwalks lined with lightbulb studded cinemas. To the unaccustomed this can only be fantasy vintage Americana, but there is no denying its authenticity. New York is distilled into a mood, one that is muted, dark, and yet serene. Beautiful faces stare out of bleak carriages and light plays into the shadows.
Posted by me at 13:14