Arles In black
I don’t need an excuse to visit the South of France but if I did ‘Les Rencontres d’Arles’ would be perfect. Add to this an OCA study visit and a chance to discuss things with fellow students and tutors and I couldn’t say no. This year the theme, Arles in Black, referred to a predominantly black and white collection and I was a bit worried that this might be too much on such a scale. My fears were born out to a degree as, at times, I was desperate for some colour.
As I said it was great to mix with others. Some I already knew and some I now know! Being able to discuss things and bounce ideas around makes the world of difference – even if it is only ‘how do you pronounce Becher’? Arles itself uses every available space to create exhibitions; galleries, churches, hotels and cafes all have work on display. The biggest single venue is the Parc des Ateliers which used to be a collection of workshops for railway maintenance.
As usual, Arles provided me with a wealth of work I’d never seen and some new photographers to follow up on, some of whom are already influencing my next assignments! There was far too much to go into detail on everything I saw but here are a few highlights:
John Davies had a collection called France England which was a mix of landscape and industrial landscape shots taken in the UK and France. Having travelled from Stockport I was quite surprised to see a picture of Stockport viaduct (a picture I’ve taken myself, from the same spot) staring me in the face. I’ve since revisited a number of his images around Stockport but that’s for another post! All of the prints were beautifully produced with the fine detail that you get from a large format film camera and a wide range of tones but with a strong contrast and strong blacks.
‘Hulme Manchester 1984’ was the image that fascinated me the most. I drove past these flats every day for many years before they were knocked down and it was never as quite as this. This image almost feels like an artist’s impression of the future of housing; everything orderly and neat. There is, however, the corner of a fence in the bottom left which suggests that it was taken from something that was not quite finished. A number of Davies’ images, including this one, place the horizon in the middle with a large expanse of sky which I feel may unbalance these images.
I kept looking at ‘Agecroft power station, Salford 1983’ wondering where I had seen this before. I then realised that it put me in mind of Mitch Epstein’s ‘Poca High School and Amos coal power plant 2004’ taken 21 years later. Agecroft power station is one of those images that has a wonderful sense of delay. The longer you look at it the more you see. Discussing the image with others on the study visit was interesting as people picked up on different aspects of the image from the people in it to the way industry had shaped the landscape.
A large number of these images will form part of ‘all that is solid melts into air’ Manchester Art Gallery from 11 October 2013 to 19 January 2014, Curated by Jeremy Deller.
Hiroshi Sugimoto had 2 exhibitions; Revolution and Colours of Shadow. Revolution was in the Espace Van Gogh and was nearly all made up of B&W, night time, long exposure landscapes that were very large (94 x 47 inches) and presented on their side. Without reading about them in advance they immediately look abstract because of their orientation. Once you realise they are on their side it is difficult not to turn your head. That said, a photograph for me can be as abstract as it likes, I find shape, form and colour as fascinating as a more obvious and defined subject. In some ways I wished I’d not turned my head at all. There is no point of reference for where the images are taken, no foreground, so they present a sense of floating in the air. I found the images very calming and felt I could get lost in them.
Sugimoto’s second exhibition, Colours of Shadow was quite different. Colours of Shadow is a series of Polaroids taken early in the morning through a prism, splitting the colours. These Polaroids have been used by Hermes for a series of silk scarves and these were displayed along with the polaroids in the Eglise Saint-Blaise. I was expecting prints but the scarves captured the light from both sides adding a new dimension becoming illuminated and vivid beacons against the pale yellow stone of the church walls. The church setting was enhanced by Sugimoto’s ‘Last Supper’ which hung at one end. The central runway created a catwalk with the scarves just out of reach. There was an overall sense of worshipping the scarves (which retail for many thousands of pounds each).
Gilbert Garcin’s humorous and at times sarcastic images of life’s struggles were a well needed lift to the end of day 2; that point when you have seen enough in one go and are getting weary. Garcin uses himself as the main character in his images resulting in a Monty Python meets Monsieur Hulot feel. These pictures are created using mostly cut outs and models rather than Photoshop. The images tend to stand or fall by their title. The image below ‘Life’ see Garcin going round in circles with his cross to bear only to be buried under it. I found myself playing guessing games trying to work out the title from the image before reading it.
There were many other artists and photographs that inspired me including Guy bourdin, Antoine Gonin and Wolfgang Tillmans but I think I’ll have to follow these up in future posts.