Somehow I’ve got myself on the mailing list for the Jerwood Space – I’m not sure how, I must have been in a form filling mood when I visited their website. So information about their latest show came through a few weeks ago and as I was going to the tate Modern last night for an event I was able to pop in.
The show is Blurred Certainty:
. . . eight international photographers whose work resonates between the boundaries of constructed imagery and direct representations of the visual world.
Some of the pieces are obviously digitally manipulated, while others are more about the physical manipulation of the scenes represented, and for some it could be either.
With the exception of Aliki Barine’s work, all the pieces in both these shows were printed in ultra-large format. Big glossy prints that I guess are designed to suck you in and isolate you from the gallery surroundings.
With these large prints there is a play-off between their size and the quality of the original photo. A problem for a number of prints was that when blown up to this size they can look fuzzy and lacking in detail. The manipulation also become more evident at this size and although this could be seen as a feature rather than a failing, I felt that it distracted your attention in some cases.
The floating islands in the background of Untitled-1 by Sandra Senn suffered in this way, it looked like a case of poor Photoshop work where the islands in the background interfaced with the sea. The other three in the series of photos were superb however, they seemed to have just the right balance of uncertainty over whether they are real or created.
Simon Tyszko’s landscapes were an example where the low quality of the original photo didn’t affect the outcome, indeed the blotchiness added to the atmosphere of them.
The suggestion that the pieces on display involved themselves with some kind of manipulation was a good way of forcing you to look at the pictures with a sceptical mind. Although it could have become some kind of puzzle-solving exercise—spot the unnatural changes in the picture—it also served to create a feeling of unreality for the show. Nothing could be looked at innocently anymore.
There seems to be an assumption now that photographs have to be printed very large. This may have been perpetuated by the well-known works by artists such as Andreas Gursky or Thomas Ruff. I mention them as they were in the show Photography from the UBS Collection at tate Modern.
The UBS Art Collection focuses on works of museum quality that represent the defining trends in European and American contemporary art from the second half of the twentieth century.
What attracted my eye in this statement was “museum quality”. This seems to be a self-fulfilling statement as “the firm [UBS] has developed long-term partnerships with leading organisations worldwide. Such relationships have enabled us to realise our vision of sharing works from the UBS Art Collection.” Maybe I’m being unfair to UBS, after all it is very generous of them to let us see the works in their collection.
Tate and UBS share a vision to open up art.
hmm. And the best way to do this is to buy up a load of art, and then loan it out making sure that your logo graces every piece of collateral? That’s not exactly altruistic. OK, I realise that this is how the world works, and bitching about it isn’t going to make any difference. I think what I really object to is the sycophantic text of the leaflet, it’s kind of shameful of the tate to allow that to go into print.
Anyway, getting back to my original point, I think the only pictures in a small format that I saw at tate were the Agglomerations by Fischli and Weiss. This set of 6 prints worked well at this size, really forcing you to get close to examine the scenes. But overall it seems to me that everyone is going for large formats and not really investigating a more intimate engagement with the viewer that smaller prints like Fischli and Weiss’s could create.
- Blurred Certainty
Aliki Braine, Etienne Clément, Diana Lui, Calanit Schachner, Sandra Senn, Simon Tyszko, Nicky Willcock and Duncan Caratacus Clark
171 Union Street, London SE1 0LN
- UBS Openings: Photography from the UBS Art Collection
Andreas Gursky, Erwin Wurm, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Thomas Ruff, Candida Höfer, Massimo Vitali, Beat Streuli, Luigi Ghirri, Olivo Barbieri, Thomas Struth, Walter Niedermayr, Peter Fischli and David Weiss
Bankside, London SE1 9TG