‘Gravitas’ at London Art Fair

We’re delighted that Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s ‘Unsullied And Untarnished’ project, which examines the culture of the Common Riding festivals of the Scottish Borders, has been chosen to be included in the Photo50 show at London Art Fair which runs this week from Wednesday 18th – Sunday 22nd January.

Photo50 is London Art Fair’s annual exhibition of contemporary photography, providing a critical form for examining some of the most distinctive elements of current photographic practice. 2017’s installment is ‘Gravitas‘, a group exhibition of lens-based works, curated by Christiane Monarchi, editor of Photomonitor photography website.

Also from Scotland and included in the show are works from a new portrait project by Wendy McMurdo which examines the dual existence of children and their digital online worlds.

GRAVITAS

“‘Gravitas’ refers to one of the core personal virtues taken by ancient Roman society as an important part of the expression of a purposeful life, a facet of the ideal and well-rounded citizen. It denoted depth as well as a seriousness and solemnity of character. The presence of gravitas signalled the transition of the Roman youth from the ranks of boyhood to become a respected member of society.

Artistic representation of the interior world of children and adolescents as they enter the adult world is fraught with challenges: not least the existence of taboos regarding the portrayal of children in the media under the age of consent. However, at a time when childhood itself comes under increasing pressure from society in many real and virtual arenas, the path through adolescence constitutes a fascinating journey worth illuminating for both artistic and sociological discourse.” – Christiane Monarchi explains the exhibition.

 

Ethan McMurdo as monk, St. Ronan’s games festival, Innerleithen, Scotland on 19th July 2014.

 

Jeremy will be exhibiting portraits of youths (above) participating in the Common Riding festivals from his Unsullied And Untarnished project, photographic portraits of the people of the towns of the Scottish Borders who each year undertake the maintaining of tradition, commemorating their local history and strengthening the bonds of their communities, during the annual Common Riding festivals of the summer months. Braw Lassies and Honest Lads, Left Hand Lassies and Right Hand Men, Cornets, Hunters and Coldstreamers – all titles given to the upstanding youths who lead the festivities, and whose duty it is to carry the burgh or town standard around the common lands, to “bring it back unsullied and untarnished”.

Wendy McMurdo’s work focuses on the now ubiquitous role of the computer in the lives of the majority of western children. The rapid proliferation of computers in schools has provided the context for the development of much of her work, which looks directly at the influence of computers on early years education. Working closely with local schools, she has explored the role of the child within the school, the growth of the Internet and the development of networked play. In related projects, she shadowed school parties on educational visits to various local museums, a process which evolved naturally from photographing in the classroom. From this, she produced series of works that explored the ways in which children related to the museum and its objects in a world of increasing simulation. She is based in Edinburgh.

Young Girl (iii), photo © Wendy McMurdo 2016.

 

Talking of the project Wendy says, “In the summer of this year, my youngest daughter was about to leave primary school and I wanted to make a final piece of work documenting her class. I’d worked with this group on many occasions over the years, mainly looking at the impact that the computer and digital culture had on their lives.

That summer, location based gaming exploded onto the scene and it seemed that much of this group’s time outside school was spent chasing Pokémon around the streets of the city. Using GPS and their camera functions, they roamed the city, inhabiting two worlds at the same time – one geographic and one imaginary. In this set of portraits, I wanted to capture that dual existence, now that space has been re-imagined for us by the appearance of location-based gaming.”

‘Gravitas’ Exhibiting Artists.

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Harry Benson: Shoot First

 

HARRY BENSON: SHOOT FIRST – a new movie about acclaimed photojournalist Harry Benson, native of Glasgow and now residing in New York, and Honorary Patron of Document Scotland, is now out in the cinemas.

HARRY BENSON: SHOOT FIRST will be shown at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh on Monday, February 6 and Tuesday, February 7. And no doubt on many more screens to come.

Watch the trailer here.

 

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Disappearing Glasgow

We’re delighted to read that Chris Leslie‘s Disappearing Glasgow project is getting another outing, this time as a multimedia exhibition at Glasgow Lighthouse space. If you missed Chris’s recent Glasgow School of Art show, then you should hurry along to see this arrangement of the works…

Disappearing Glasgow, by Chris Leslie.

 

Exhibition info:

Photographer and filmmaker Chris Leslie is widely acknowledged as the most consistent chronicler of the city’s recent history. This new multimedia exhibition and accompanying book ‘Disappearing Glasgow’ documents an era of spectacular change in Glasgow through the medium of photography and film.

The skyline of Glasgow has been radically transformed as high rise tower blocks have been blown down and bulldozed. Since 2006 more than 30% of the city’s high rise flats have disappeared, communities dispersed across the city and Dalmarnock have ‘been raised from the ashes’ via the Commonwealth Games.

Does this Disappearing Glasgow herald a renaissance in the city?

Disappearing Glasgow, by Chris Leslie.

 

Disappearing Glasgow book, by Chris Leslie.

 

Reviews of the book:

‘There’s something about a still image of something gone wrong that’s truly haunting. Perhaps to do with the age we live in, where everything is fast-moving and fleeting, that something grounded can have such a lasting effect. That’s what Chris Leslie brings to the table in Disappearing Glasgow. FIVE STARS’ The Skinny

‘Fascinating and highly emotive.’ i-on

‘Fascinating and moving.’ Scots Magazine

‘Photographer Chris Leslie documents this decline and fall wth steely-eyed honesty and unsentimental empathy. The result is both distressing and beautiful, an essay in what might have been and a lesson for anyone involved in the planning process.’ Scottish Review of Books

‘The photographs are absolutely stunning, perfectly capturing the spooky, eerie atmosphere of buildings which have been left to time. The story which Leslie tells through his photo series involves the smallest detail, such as a lost lottery ticket or an old thermostat on the wall, but also panoramas of the Glasgow cityscape, being once someone’s view. Two thumbs up for this book!’ SkyHighCity

‘Chris Leslie is the foremost chronicler of the changing face of Glasgow over the last decade.’ A Thousand Flowers

‘Chris Leslie builds on that erudite pointed critical observation and legacy of photography from the Victorian photographer Thomas Annan, through to Marzaroli. The city is fortunate to have such a critical friend, the contemporary conscience of our generation, able to aim his lens with astonishing focus, at the same time capturing the beauty, sadness and poignant with a pointed dignity.’ Page and Park Architects

Release date: 26th October 2016
Format: A4 Landscape Hardback, 192pp

Book can be purchased at usual outlets or online here – http://www.freightbooks.co.uk/disappearing-glasgow.html

Disappearing Glasgow, by Chris Leslie.

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Frank McElhinney

Frank McElhinney’s work first came to our attention in 2014 when he won first place at that year’s Jill Todd Award for his intriguing, unique aerial photographs. Since then this prolific artist has gone from strength to strength, creating several bodies of work focussing on Scotland’s landscape and how it relates to our country’s past, both near and distant. One of these, Adrift, is currently on display at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, as part of Tabula Rasa II. Here, he speaks to Sarah about his projects, processes, themes and methods.

Adrift: Learable, Sutherland (2016) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

SAF: Frank, you graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in 2014. Can you tell us a bit about how you got into photography? What were you doing before you became a student?

FM: After working in manufacturing for 20 years I decided out of the blue to become an artist. I attended several different night classes whilst building up a portfolio for entry into art school. So it’s a rather mundane answer I’m afraid, but I got into photography through adult education courses at Glasgow City College and GSA.

SAF: Your degree show plans were forced to change when the Mackintosh building caught fire in May 2014 – can you explain how this affected your work?

FM: Yes, it was a bit of a shock at the time. I’d spent over three years working on a project about the Battle of Bannockburn whose 700th anniversary was to coincide with the degree show that never happened. The main affect on my own work was the instillation of a great sense of urgency around production. Three days after the fire I went to the source of the River Forth at Loch Chon and began making a series of kite aerial photographs that won first prize in the Jill Todd Photography Award. The drive towards constant production has stayed with me.

Fire in the Mack, Friday the 23rd of May (2014) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

SAF: Speaking of the work you entered into the Jill Todd competition, how did you come to use the kite for making your photographs? Were there any technical challenges to this approach?

FM: Using the kite came from the need to make one specific picture. At the Battle of Bannockburn thousands of people drowned in the burn and the River Forth. I wanted to photograph the confluence of these two bodies of water from above and the kite was the simplest way to achieve that perspective. The kite is literally a joy to work with. The only challenge is the wind itself. Too much gusting and the kite will crash, not enough and a long journey might be wasted.

False Start, Limitless Ending: Confluence of Kelty Water and River Forth (2014) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

SAF: Your recent work, Adrift, also uses aerial photography – this time, to respond to the current migration crisis with reference to areas of Scotland once inhabited by subsistence farmers. The link is an oblique rather than an obvious one – can you tell us more about your process with this project and how you decided which locations to concentrate on?

FM: Even sympathetic media coverage of today’s migration crisis often represents refugees in problematic ways. I chose not to photograph people at all but to look instead at migration through the lens of Scottish history. The Scottish diaspora has affected all parts of the country but I focused on abandoned settlements in the Highlands and Islands. I was inspired by the early work of Tom Devine who described how the Highland Clearances were underpinned by ethnic inferiorisation of the Gaels and resulted in an almost complete cultural erasure. Whilst working on a previous project I’d also been struck by the fact that even today, of the 45 most populous cities and towns in Scotland only four of them appear on the northern side of the map.

SAF: Your work creates interesting visual conversations between past and present – responding to current events while illuminating Scotland’s history. You mention a previous project – 45 Sun Pictures in Scotland, for which you used another type of alternative photographic process – pinhole photography. Can you tell us a little about how that work came about?

FM: In September 2014, I was on a month long residency in Cromarty. At the beginning I held a workshop for local people where we made pinhole cameras, filled them up with photographic paper and tied them on lampposts and trees around the village. At the end of the month we retrieved and scanned the images that had been burned into the paper. Looking at those abstract ‘solargraphs’ with the sun tracking across the sky, I reflected that the fate of the entire nation was being decided during the exposures. Within a few days of the referendum on independence it was clear nothing had been settled, the country was still pregnant with change. Solargraphs seemed an appropriate way of saying something about that unexpected situation. So I made 200 pinhole cameras and installed them around Scotland’s 45 most populous cities and towns. I made a picture of Scotland that was, in the end, woefully incomplete.

45 Sun Pictures in Scotland: Dundee (2014-2015) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

SAF: It’s almost as if, through your practice, you’re creating alternative geographical surveys of the land – linking the physical terrain to more abstract ideas about identity and nationhood, with reference to events both recent and ancient. There are definite strands running through your work, though the subject matter changes. What projects do you have planned for 2017?

FM: When I look at the land I see history and I think about how I can use history to address contemporary issues, (such as nationhood, conflict and migration), rather than simply represent historic events or the land itself. I like your description ‘alternative geographical surveys of the land’, but at the same time I am also making alternative histories that connect with the present.

Looking ahead I have two new exhibitions in development for 2017 and 2018. The first relates once again to migration but looks even further back in time to the old Roman border between Caledonia and Britannia, the Antonine wall – this will be shown at the Auld Kirk Museum, Kirkintilloch, in April and May 2017. The second project is a collaboration with John Farrell, whom I met at art school. John and I were born and raised in Lanarkshire a few miles apart, and that’s where the project is based. Our working title is Coal, Steel and Earth. I am focusing on Kingshill Nature Park, formerly the site of a pit where my maternal grandfather worked as a coal miner. John is focused on what remains of Ravenscraig steelworks, where coincidentally my paternal grandfather worked as a platelayer. The exhibition is provisionally planned for 2018, at Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life. Beyond these immediate projects I have a few ‘slow burners’ including that lost project that claims me every time I drive up the A91 past Stirling and look out over the long loop of the burn as it flows into the Forth. I used to think that the moment for Remembering Bannockburn had gone up in smoke forever, but there is still work to be done out there.

Coal, Steel and Earth: Kingshill trench and tree (2016) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

 

Remembering Bannockburn: Confluence of Bannockburn and River Forth (2014) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

 

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us, Frank. We’re really excited to see where your work takes you!

Adrift is currently on display as part of Tabula Rasa II, Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, until 4th February.

 

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