Text by Georgina Wright
Open Eye Gallery presents the intriguing exhibition A Lecture Upon The Shadow taking its title from a poem that explores the phases of love by English Renaissance poet John Donne. This collaborative exhibition with ShanghART, Shanghai’s most prominent commercial gallery, encompasses the work of six inspiring artists from the North West and Shanghai. Each artist approaches the subjects of light, shadow and form to reconstruct familiarity and explore the association of photography with illusion and the everyday. Furthermore this exhibition stimulates a consideration of contemporary art’s position in our society, in particular the role of photography in an increasingly dynamic field. This concept of evolution in the history of art is apparent in the work by Manchester based artist David Penny. Dutch Paintings (2012) is photographs of obscure sculptures created through the deconstruction of the pages in a reproduction art book. Being displayed behind coloured glass, David Penny historicises the photographs; they become art objects exploring the relationship between photography, painting and sculpture.
Similarly, in accordance with the notion of growth and perhaps indeterminate futures, Eldon Grove (2012) by Liverpool based artist Tabitha Jussa documents the site of an abandoned utopian social housing development in North Liverpool. Eldon Grove is a prominent site comprising of three separate buildings in a condition of disrepair since the community moved out during the 1960s and the conservation developers fail to agree on its future. Eldon Grove consists of 50 individual images pieced together digitally to create an impossible observation of the buildings, a ‘hyper-realism’. The concept of bringing together these images is paradoxical to the initial deconstruction of the buildings, the neighbourhoods and the way of life for the once resident community.
A further look at social and political implications is shown through the work of Shanghai based of artist Fan Shi San. Two of Us (2009- present) explores the identity formation of people born in China since the introduction of the one child policy. Through the construction of images of young people with their imaginary shadow-like self-reflections, the works suggest an irreconcilable separation and loneliness through the apparent lack of communication between the two characters.
This exhibition has an unquestionable narrative quality, which is clearly evident in the work by Liverpool artist David Jacques in Corpus Mercatorium (2012), informed by the writings of 16th century demonologist Johann Weyer. It encompasses portraits from corporate PR web pages and photographs from WW1 archives, collaged together to create curious specimens producing an allegorical and surreal narrative.
The narrative theme is also existent in the work of Shanghai artist Liang Yue; Numerous Continuation: Summer Autumn Chaos (2012) which captures momentary instances from daily life. Through the subtle manipulation of the images using natural and artificial light Liang Yue captures these illusory scenes suspended between twilight and darkness. This work is both visually and conceptually stimulating, portraying an eerie sense of an indeterminate state.
Correspondingly, Shanghai artist Man Yi’s work Memory of Water (2006-2010) drifts between dividing line of light and darkness, simultaneously evoking a sense of allure and apprehension. Man Yi’s exploratory use of light and depth of field generates a space of sublime illusion, suspended in a transitory moment.
Overall this exhibition unites the work of all six artists in a captivating and sequential manner, provoking both analysis and sheer visual delight.
A Lecture Upon the Shadow is on display at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool until 17 February 2013.
Georgina Wright is a writer based in Liverpool.