Last week I went to three exhibitions in Oxford. The first was to the O3 Gallery where they have an exhibition entitled ‘Fashion Stories’ – part of ‘Oxford Fashion Week’, the blurb goes on to say “An exhibition of photography that showcases fashion in an unexpected setting and which, in various ways, can challenge our conceptions about fashion.
The way we present ourselves to the world tells a story. A story about how we see ourselves, how we want others to see and how we feel. Oxford Fashion Week presents an exhibition of photography and sculpture that invites the viewer to journey into that story.”
I think ten photographers, each with one print. Two of those photographers were women, none of the models were women; one of the women photographers had an image which seemed to proudly state that her model was a thirteen year old who was made to look fully sexually mature. I asked the Gallery for an explanation, I was referred to the Director of Oxford Fashion Weeks – who they felt sure would come back to me. I’m still waiting and somewhat incredulous that the Gallery had no comment to make on the subject.
Moving on to Modern Art Oxford which had two artist’s work: Hannah Rickards and Roelof Louw.
Louw has exhibited at MAO before – in 1969 – and his “Pyramid (Soul City) (1967) has been remounted for this exhibition. It consists ” ... of 6000 oranges in a pyramid and invites viewers to take a piece of fruit, until, eventually they disappear.” The orange above is an image I made of the orange that I took from the exhibit. “He envisaged visitors participating in the work, “serially changing its order, all the time“.
I asked one of the museum staff to pose by the oranges and indicate the height she thought the pyramid of oranges had been. I was told that the oranges are periodically cycled (within the confines of the wooden base) in order that they remain fresh. I was reminded of Jason Evans whose exhibitions had ‘giveaways’, that he wanted the viewers of his work to take something of that work with them. I’m not sure that Louw had the same intention, but I shall consume the orange. It will be recycled. The work will be disseminated.
And whilst Louw’s work was orange tinted, colour was also very important to Rickards’ work, at least inasmuch as it seemed to anchor a good deal of it. There were six pieces of work on the gallery floor. If art relies, to a greater or lesser extent on the senses, then these pieces all seem to want to relate to those senses in a particularly singular way. One part of the gallery space was given over to green. The skylights and windows were covered in a green gel, the prints had green ink:
This last image depicts the outer of one of the two video installations that I found particularly interesting: Inside were two large screens each with a video projection of conversations between different people on what they remembered about some images they had been invited to view and then respond to, I think, some questions unheard or unseen. These responses all seemed to discuss narrative; how the viewers, there were eight or nine of them, would try and interpret what they remembered of the images they had seen, wanting to fill in the ‘gaps’ of their comprehension – make the images make sense. These people weren’t artists, they didn’t possess the vernacular of the artist, but they were able to describe what it was they thought they remembered and tried to make sense of it. This seemed interesting to me in the work I have been doing on ‘Light‘, how narratives will be developed independently by the historical perspective of the viewer, something I’m also researching with “The Open Work” by Umberto Eco.
The work at Art Jericho was a show by Kim Shaw. Of all the work I saw on the day this set of images had the most beauty about it. Monochrome images printed with great dexterity and craft using a variety of camera mediums, but sticking with film these images were a joy to look at. However they did seem to me to be ‘pretty pictures’. I have nothing against ‘pretty pictures’ and their prices ranged from £500 up to £1500 each – though there were some smaller reproductions around £200 each. Whether these images are just a paean to the physicality of the medium of film image making I’m not sure, but they didn’t go any deeper than that for me. I was glad that these images were the last I saw and not the ‘new way to see ourselves’ that the O3 gallery was mounting. If I thought this was how I looked, if I thought this was the way we, as a society was trending towards, than I think we are plummeting in a downward spiral.