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Tom Lovelace, Photo50 Against Nature, London Art Fair 2015
London Art Fair - Photo50 ‘Against Nature’
This year’s edition of Photo50 is Against Nature an exhibition curated by Sheyi Bankale, curator, photographer, and Editor of Next Level Magazine. Against Nature inspired by Joris-Karl Huysman’s eponymous novel, featuring 9 photographers; Jonny Briggs, Thorsten Brinkmann, Julio Galeote, Hassan Hajjaj, Darren Harvey-Regan, Adad Hannah, Andrew Lacon, Tom Lovelace, and Nikolai Ishchuk; question contemporary image-making and raise the photograph to the status of an object.
Against Nature is a bold visual and sensory delight, and if anyone is still under the impression that photography is not a ‘real’ art form, this exhibition will change your opinion. It consists of 4 connected spaces, the viewer navigates on a kind of explorative journey. Bankale most certainly has the ability to not only curate an informative display, but also one that is surprising, unconventional, at times theatrical, and at others subtle and quite. It’s plain that Bankale is an expert on the subject of photography, he lives and breathes it. Concerned not only by photography’s current identity, but also its future in the contemporary art world, Bankale himself states,
“for photography itself obtaining the status of an object, even an art
object of high symbolic value is now commonplace. This moment of
awareness of photography as object is significant, yet presumptuously
already out of date as new generations are in search of a new wave of
photography. Still, it is a perfect moment to unearth various reference
points to the physical nature of this art form.”
Sheyi Bankale, http://www.londonartfair.co.uk/library/Photo50, 23/1/15
To summarise Bankale through Against Nature intends to dissect the elevation of photography to an object and the narrative threads that underlie each piece. The narrative element of the show is immediately evident, in its title, Against Nature taken from a Joris-Klaus Huysman’s eponymous 1884 novel, whose central character, de Esseintes, turns against Bourgeois society and seeks recourse in isolated contemplation and constant stimulation of his senses. Significantly, this was also an important time in the development of photography, where techniques emerged linking photography more directly with the identity of an object: daguerrotype, tintype, and heliography. Through technological advances and the digitisation of photography, the final photograph today, has never seemed more ephemeral or farther away from an object.
Against Nature has the potent theatricality about it. Intentionally, as Bankale is employing each of the 9 photographers to design distinctive environments through their work, recreating a space much like the elaborately decorated and themed rooms of de Esseintes in Huysman’s version of Against Nature. The viewer is presented with a colourful exploration of the myriad of ways in which photography identifies itself today, beginning with photographer, sculptor, and performer, Tom Lovelace. His installation of colourful brooms, stacked up like mikado sticks, immediately invites the viewer in a light-hearted yet perplexing way. Thorsten Brinkmanns’ works take over an entire space and resemble an alluringly vivid cabinet of curiosities featuring his objet trove assemblages and photomontages. Spanish artist Julio Galeote, photographs staged realities in the alternate setting of the photographic studio. Through works entitled, “When Is An Image Not An Image?” Darren Harvey Regan attacks more directly the notion of representation in photography. Andrew Lacon employs photographic techniques to a sculptural end. Whereas Jonny Briggs touches upon photographic traditions in subject matter, having explored the constructed reality of the family for last 10 years. Nikolai Ishchuk’s works rest deceptively on the floor, looking heavy and solid, but his mixed-media approach actually involves disguising materials.A sense of familiarity prevails the exhibition, making it inviting and homely, whilst maintaining an element of the intentional uncanny; much like de Esseintes refuge mansion. However, the aforementioned familiarity stems from the fact that Bankale has previously worked with almost all of the artist in the exhibition. Brinkmann was included in Alice in Wonderland for the European City of Culture 2011 in Finland; and Hassan Hajjaj gave Bankale his first job. Hajjaj’s work, the last room of the exhibition is a playful, Marrocan inspired tea room splattered with pop culture references: coca cola and stop-sign wallpaper. Bankale wants to encourage the viewer to stop and reflect upon what he/her has seen and repose for a moment, after all Against Nature is intended to open a dialogue on the possibility of photograph as object. Against Nature is a beautiful, reflective exhibition, spanning media, time periods, and countries with its selection of artists.