A lens on Photomonth

Brush It In Flowers East

Brush It In, Group show curated by Lorenzo Durantini at Flowers East

In Kingsland Road, Flowers East Gallery’s contribution to this year’s Photomonth festival is Brush It In, an exhibition of art photography curated by Lorenzo Durantini. This selection of young international artists working with photography to produce conceptual and abstract works raises some interesting ideas about contemporary art practice.

There have always been close conceptual links between the practice of sculpture and of photography and many of the photographs in Brush It In are of objects made by the artists. Fleur van Dodewaard’s makes minimalist, abstract ‘Nude Studies’ with planes of strong colour, while Antonio Marguet creates surreal constructions of wood and plastic. Unlike Richard Long or Andrew Goldsworthy whose works of art are ephemeral and so must be recorded as photographs, these works might be perfectly corporeal, but the art work is deemed to be the photograph itself; perfectly lit, perfectly composed, the photograph is being preferred to the object.

Durantini in his introduction to the show talks about the “crisis of faith and the loss of faith” in photography brought about by the proliferation and technical advancement of Photoshop and other illustration tools. I’m not sure I agree with him.

The craft of the photographer, the printer, the photo-montage artist, the air-brusher, the re-toucher, in the past produced a remarkable variety of sophisticated images. I don’t think I’ve seen any new type of image produced by Photoshop.

Certainly it is easier, faster and requires less skill than it once did to manipulate an image, the technology is more sophisticated, but ultimately it’s just a better brush.

I remember looking at a Cecil Beaton portrait of his sister in the 1930’s; if you looked very closely indeed, an experienced eye could discern that she did in fact have very much fatter arms! Very little is new and actually nobody is fooled. To say we have lost faith in photography is like saying we’ve lost faith in George Clooney, because, you know, he really isn’t like that in real life!

It is worth visiting the gallery for these images as well as the work from Joshua Citarella, Anne de Vriesand and Christiane Feser. But the undoubted star of the show is a young British artist Darren Harvey-Regan, whose precise pieces are a delight.

In ‘The Halt’ a photograph of an axe is pinned by the very axe being smashed through it into the wall; in ‘Grounds of Doubt’ a long vertical print hangs by slim pins perfectly flat against the back of the frame, only the bottom of the print curls up, where you might expect the image of the heavy looking rock would keep it flat.

In these and in his series ‘More or Less Obvious Forms’ Harvey-Regan teases us with visual puns, illusions and little paradoxes. This is mature and assured work from an artist who is still not 30 years old.

Before the Olympics we were told that there would be people of many nations, speaking 202 languages visiting East London during the games, which was very odd because we usually we have people speaking 238 different languages! Photographer Daniel Stier’s exhibition In My Country at Stour Space gets behind the statistics and shows portraits of Hackney people wearing the traditional dress of their country of origin.

Portraits of people wearing national costume could be agonisingly dull, but Stier concocts a series of formal, environmental portraits that explores Hackney itself with insight and humour. The overall effect is, well, charming.

The pictures are carefully composed in a uniform horizontal format: the Peruvian gentleman with shaggy fur trousers, red poncho and felt hat stands in the middle of Clayton Street in front of the ironwork of a Victorian gasometer and the pink gable end an old pub; the saffron robes of a Buddhist monk quietly positioned on the corner of cracked pavements amidst boarded up buildings; or the black feathers of a Maori princess upright beside her back garden gate clutching what might be a snooker cue; yes, that’s Hackney alright.

Stier says: “In a globalized world which tends to flatten anything distinctive, such clothing comes to represent a bastion of cultural resistance and an assertion of identity.” Maybe this is the case in other parts of the world but here in Hackney, the apotheosis of the global village, we are tolerant and generally welcoming of those differences.

This little exhibition is pictures of the people who make Hackney what it is; what makes it the best place in the world to live.

C.A. Haplin’s exhibition at A Brooks Art starting on 1 November on Hoxton Street is also worth taking in. Slight it might be, but well seen and witty. Haplin’s approach is somehow casual but manages to bristle with humour and irony. Pictures like ‘Can TS Pell’ and ‘Man Dies in Fire Again’ enter our minds like pop music that gets stuck in our heads. Haplin’s talk ‘Blink and You’ll Miss It’ is on 15 November, but you must book in advance.

Brush It In
Flowers East
82 Kingsland Road
E2 8DP
020 7920 7777

In My Country
Stour Space
7 Roach Road
Fish Island
E3 2PA
020 8985 7827

CAN TS PELLE by C. A. Halpin
A Brooks Art
194-196 Hoxton Street
N1 5LH
07876 594398

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