Wonder is the outcome of the fact that we see the world… For the full experience of wonder there must be no description beforehand that will lead us to compare what we actually experience with what we were told, or even with the level of expectation raised by the one who told us to close our eyes. The object must be unexpectedly, instantaneously seen for the first time. -Philip Fisher, Wonder, The Rainbow, and the Aesthetics of Rare Experiences, 1998
A sunny Saturday morning was the perfect time to investigate this show; with light streaming through the rounded windows of the empty gallery, I immersed myself in an intriguing and aesthetically beautiful series of images. It felt refreshing to view an exhibition where I had precisely zero prior knowledge of any of the participating artists. The lack of any supplementary materials and the fact that all of the works were without titles enforced the sense of wonder. The initial impression suggested the theme of portraiture; however the first wall revealed a landscape series by China’s Chao Wang. Four compact views devoid of people; a bridge, a cliff, a lakeside dwelling and a wider shot of a mountain. Quite beautiful, but not transcendent, these images displayed man’s alteration of land while conveying the majesty of nature.
Maria Jose Zubillaga Bianchi
The Uruguayan artist Maria Jose Zubillaga Bianchi’s lightbox drew me from across the room. From a distance I initially thought it was an aerial photograph of a harbour, with a green sea and mysterious gridded docklands. The true nature of the work revealed a detailed and complex layered image of a wall. A mural of a flowering branch on an azure field, a pit of brickwork, lines from timber fixtures, peeling paint and an encroaching tide of dark plaster combine to create a rhythmic, nuanced image that is both beautiful and suggestive.
The work of gender-ambiguous Canadian photographer JJ Levine immediately evoked Rineke Dijkstra’s confrontational portraiture. From the rich colours of the backgrounds to the lines of the furniture and the complimentary nature of the model’s clothes and accessories with their surroundings, every facet of the photographs including the latent symbolism of objects and gesture is skilfully employed and executed. Themes of gender politics, perception and prejudice imbue the work with real force, and the combination of artistic merit with human and social context is potent and memorable.
Levine’s stagey representations contrasted nicely with the more naturalistic output of Tenzing Dakpa. The Indian’s intimate and personal photography shows young inhabitants of New Delhi in domestic settings, mainly bedrooms in this case. The subjects appear relaxed and pensive, captured in moments of private repose. While certainly not candid, the posed realism of the images was exaggerated by the works proximity to Levine’s overtly stylised portraits.
Both photographers employ the semiotic resonance of everyday objects to deepen the implications of their work; jewellery, clothing, furniture and hairstyles add vivid layers of meaning to the artists’ visual communication. Levine’s hyperbolic vignettes are clearly meticulously orchestrated, Dakpa’s work appears more understated and spontaneous, but photography in its very nature is illusory; a microsecond captured can be a deception. Dakpa’s work might also be completely contrived, but the net result is the illusion of low key realism.
True realism and spontaneity is apparent in the work of Nottingham-born Richard Fish. His street photography displays a keen eye and swift fingertip. The maturity of the work, with its subtle details, racing shadows and moments of colour has a charm and wit that belies his 22 years. The subjects in the photographs are unaware of the artists gaze; concurrently I felt that thrilling mixture of reward and loathing that comes with voyeurism.
Aesthetically and conceptually the Singapore native Kamarulzaman Bin Mohamed Sapiee’s innovative and highly contemporary portrait stands apart from the other photographs on display. Maybe innovative is the wrong word; novel might suit better or even gimmick. A seated crowd of people is facing the viewer; the almost ubiquitous Quick Response code takes the place of the subjects faces. Stylistically and symbolically I was reminded of Magritte’s portrait Perspective: Manet’s Balcony II, 1950, where a familial group is represented as coffins (3 standing 2 seated); unconventional portraiture, but also radical and effective.
Kamarulzaman Bin Mohamed Sapiee
Indeed the use of the QR code as a pervasive symbol echoes Magritte’s application of the bowler hat as a bourgeois emblem, a visual representation of uniformity and ubiquity. Clearly the purpose of Bin Mohamed Sapiee’s work is to pull the viewer deeper into the world of the subjects through the application of technology. Alas my sturdy old NOKIA lacked the QR scanning capability but the invigilator’s Blackberry managed to glean scraps of personal details from the codes, but nothing major. Perhaps they work better with Androids.
An exhibition without a title, comprised of works with no names, by artists unknown to me, in a city that I’d never visited provided me with the opportunity to view this collection with an open mind, to review it purely on merit and allowed me to experience pure wonder. Maybe there is an overarching theme, more subtle than the simple fact that all the artists are under 30 and use cameras, regardless the show joins the dots between various styles of photography and offers an impressive snapshot of the rising new blood.
-Timothy J. Holland
This exhibition is a part of World Event Young Artists and will run until 16 September, 2012
*Photographs © Daniel Callanan