Georgebinning's Blog

Documenting the Imagination

Posted in music and art, Spectator Blog by georgebinning on February 25, 2011

There is a snobbery surrounding photographic manipulation and post-production, particularly in the digital realm. Extravagant Photoshopping is widely held to be the domain of pornographers, hoaxers and cheats. But the idea that that the process of photography should essentially stop once the shutter has been released closes the door to a world of creative possibility. Exploration and Intervention: New Landscape Photography, at the George and Jorgen Gallery, does its very best to confound such traditionalist attitudes.

Young exhibiting artists Peter Ainsworth, Alejandro Guijarro, Martina Lindqvist, Byron Pritchard and Kurt Tong, ensure there is a diverse selection of both digital and film photography hanging up. The connection between landscape and exploration is a given: the two are mutually dependent. But intervention is not so obviously compatible with the values of either landscape or photography; aren’t we supposed to take the role of an objective observer? What is all this heretical meddling? You can’t do that – it’s not real!

Martina Lindqvist

Martina Lindqvist – A Thousand Little Suns I(2010)

Landscape photography, though lovely, is rarely very exciting, but the techniques with which these artists have ‘intervened’ elevates the show way above the glut of Alpine sunsets and night time cityscapes that swamp offices and coffee tables worldwide. Swedish-Finnish artist Martina Lindqvist, for example, has produced three twilight landscapes (A Thousand Little Suns I, II and III) of ethereal beauty. The scenes seem to be lit by an omnipotent, eerie sort of stage lighting: or a thousand little somethings? Irregular points of focus pull the eye this way and that; the length of exposure has smoothed the grey luminescent skies into a superficial, dreamy backdrop, and desaturated the crisp geometric form of the factory. The result gently involves you in a landscape of brooding pathetic fallacy and solitary introspection. George Lionel Barker (as in ‘…and Jorgen’) says Lindqvist is very secretive about how she creates her images, and is clearly delighted but a little confused by the piece; these works tap into the lifeblood of the show’s theme. ‘It’s very Scandinavian,’ a Swede standing next to me confidently asserts.

Byron Pritchard exhibits two quite surreal renderings of plant life, shooting with regular film and then subjecting his massive developed images to a series of chemical treatments. After developing in black and white, he then bleaches the image, adds toner, paints masking fluid over the lightest spots, adds another toner, and then washes the surface with translucent oil paints. The process is messy and expensive, but the result is rich and engaging.

Inspired by Hans Bellmer, Pritchard laments that photo tinting has never been taken seriously in high art, reminding me of the historic aversion to ‘intervening’ in photography. Alejandro Guijarro’s landscapes are of particular note: mist envelopes the horizon; only the very foreground is discernible. The repeated patterns of the Asian temple could carry on forever as they fade into the near distance, prompting the imagination to fill in the gaps.

As a whole, Exploration and Intervention challenges the idea that a photograph should retain at least some documentary purpose, that a landscape should represent a point on the map. The works on show emphasise that photography is a process that takes place long before and after the moment of capture. These fictitious and abstract landscapes are extremely beautiful and provide a whole new menu of food for thought. It is only George and Jorgen’s second show, and the gallery holds much promise for the future.

Exploration and Intervention: New Landscape Photography runs until March 11 at George and Jørgen, 9a Princes Street, London W1B 2LQ.

Published on the Spectator Arts Blog.


2 Responses

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  1. George Harfleet said, on February 25, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Beautifully written review. And that photograph is just magical, really something else. One has to keep looking and searching every inch of the scene. Eerily beautiful and quiet.
    Best of all I could understand it! Most unusual por moi.

  2. luke said, on March 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm


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