On the sublime…

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It’s a simple enough trope…superimposition of one scale upon another…though I suspect quite a bit harder to pull off than one might imagine.  In Richard T. Walker’s video piece its used to quite powerful effect – regular readers will know I’m quite a lot harder own video – but the poetic narrative at work here is pretty mesmerising.  It lives up to the promise of the exhibitions title.  Sadly much else here doesn’t.  Mariella Neidecker’s piece here buries her characteristic vignette into a clumsy mis en scene that proves to be a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.  The other work in the space crowded out by this bombast.  Elsewhere nothing much lives up to the billing.

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Luckily outside the main galleries in the Angear space there is something of exceptional and exquisite quality.  The Nottinghamshire based artist Robert Hart has been given the opportunity to display some the exceptional work he has been engaged in over the past few years.  It is an astonishing display – perhaps a little overcrowded – of the drawings, prints and paintings he has produced over recent times.

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He has focussed a deal of his creative ambition on the Suffolk coastline – specifically the wastelands of Orfordness and, whilst many artists have chosen this unique landscape since it was released from the Ministry of Defence a few decades back, fewer still have done so to such exceptional effect.  Anyone who has visited this location (and if you haven’t I strongly advise you do) will testify to its unique character – an ambience that Rob has captured to perfection.  His forensic visual intelligence is coupled with a poetic imagination and has resulted in a wealth of material.  His show is a triumph – catch it in the few days you have left – it ends on May 6th.

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Exposure (Format Festival) @ Deda

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Format photography festival has set itself the problem of having to come up with a theme for every iteration…of which there have now been seven. Given the vagaries of creative impulse, finance, availability and open submission it has to be a rather capacious holdall. This time around the title is Evidence. Well quite. Thats photography for you! At Deda the selection of the eight photographers from the open submission provides ample ‘evidence’ of both subject and interpretation. Images are culled from parts of the globe from abandoned cottages in Ireland to indigenous peoples struggling with climate change in Greenland, from fourteen year olds in Belgium, the Congo and Palestine. These last all the work of Benedicte Vanderreydt are amongst the most fascinating.  Not the images themselves that one might pass over erronously as in the vein of Larry Sultan or Bill Henson of those gauche young Americans but rather a fascinating trail through the tentacles of social media and how it throws a light on the ways in which the globe is shrinking digitally.  Giacomo Brunelli has developed a rather compelling, though highly romanticised, gloomy black and white shtick that most famously came into view in The Animals several years back.  After Animals 2 he’s now turned his attention onto Eternal London. They are attractive enough but I felt them a wee bit cliched what with the old ‘Paul Hill Man in the Snow with his back to us’ routine.  Back in the day this was not only striking and original – the clever contrast of the heavy black figure against the snow – but here it is played out against a grey sky and Big Ben…  and then played out rather repeatedly in contexts that don’t seem to speak much to the city’s nuances.  Ciril Jazbec‘s On Thin Ice came to Derby hot on the heels of the last Rencontres d’Arles and there is no denying either the quality of image making or the intensity of the images that speak directly to the dilemmas facing Unnartoq people.  These were cleverly constructed images and I’d have loved to see the whole series.  As a painter I am easily bored by photographic work that assembles vaguely poetic images and presents them in random combinations and there’s a little bit of that here…we all have a photo scrapbook nowadays that contains plenty of such pictures…so I’ll pass over those contributions and risk missing something truly profound maybe!  More coherently and properly constructed is the beautiful essay Cottages Of Quigley’s Point by – I assume – the young Irish artist Jill Quigley.  This uses the lightest of interventions – physical and/or digital? – to objectify the existing content and draw yet more attention to the questions that surround abandoned property in rural Ireland.  Its rare that a suite of images does exactly what it says on the packet (the artist’s own statement) but I felt he’d got this one spot on.  Overall there were plenty enough images here to grab one’s attention and hold it.  On this evidence there’s a deal of interesting and exciting work at this Festival – let’s hope it continues.