To match its slightly dry title I was expecting this exhibition to show slightly dry photographic collages of the sort that have been out of fashion for quite sometime; the usual suspects were present, but I also discovered an artist so far ahead of the collage genre that she will be eternally chic.
I won’t detail the dross. Suffice to say that Jan Svoboda’s 70’s pieces, flat surfaces decorated with torn up scraps of paper, reek of flares and wide lapels, while
Roy Arden’s small-scale return to collage in 2007 is none the better the second time around.
C.K Rajan’s delicate and surreal India-based images are more subtle and thought-provoking than Arden’s hammer-to-the-head approach, and Anna Parkina presents an avant garde sensibility in densely layered compositions that spin the viewer’s head around.
The exhibition’s centrepiece is Laura Letinsky’s large still life series Ill Form and Void Full (2010-11). These photographs are brilliant. If I say they are influenced by 17th century Renaissance painting, don’t be put off – except for a nugget of old-school inspiration, Letinsky’s work is relentlessly contemporary, using a wide lens to make us question the very process of seeing.
Her subjects are the aftermaths of meals (squashed fruit and spilled wine on stained tablecloths) but here the Renaissance reference ends. Rather than offering the omniscient view beloved of traditional photography, where the viewer apprehends all in one take, Letinsky uses collage to twist perspective until the viewer is no longer sure what is up and what is down, what is a flat plane and what is three dimensional. To do this she uses a combination of real objects and magazine cut-outs, each photo shot from a particular angle in her studio; only from a single unique angle can they look as they do. Does art get any more post-modern than this? She shows us that the camera creates its own truth.
I’m speechless. A photo of a photo can’t convey the wonder, but I hope you’re smart enough to go and catch this genius in the flesh.
Perspectives On Collage runs @ The Photographers’ Gallery until 7th April 2013
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