5degrees - Photoradar

13/06/2009

Rachel Murray looks through the lens of the NTU Photography degree show at the Surface Gallery.


 

Lauren Watts, Yesterday, Today and Possibly Tomorrow (Cinema)

One of the exhibitions kicking off the Festival is 5degrees at the Surface Gallery, which features the work of five BA Photography students. The exhibition promises to show a variety of photography through five separate bodies of work. I was interested to see how five separate degree shows would fit together in one space, and whether one show, this one being the first I had visited, could represent Nottingham’s fresh new talent and diverse photography.

 

I first of all notice that range of photographic themes are prominent within the exhibition space. At opposite ends of the spectrum are Nikita Chauhan and Melanie Siddalls’ pieces. Melanie Siddall’s collection of prints have a modern edge to the traditional fairytale. She explores the hidden themes of eroticism within familiar childhood fairytales. Her images allude to a strong sense of narrative that seems to ask some involvement of the viewer to decipher the story hidden within her figures set in a forest. Conversely Nikita Chauhan’s photographs are somewhat more straightforward, in a viewing sense anyway. Taking pictures of buildings and areas of a town that are deteriorating feels almost like a documentary act. Yet the composition, lighting and detail within these photographs creates something visually interesting and the scenes seem to come alive, perhaps to the point of being able to see the beauty within a decayed city.

 

Kelly O'Brien, Untitled

 

Meanwhile Kelly O’Brien’s series of photographs explore portraiture that is both poignant and beautiful. Lone male figures occupy O’Brien’s images set within the scene of a city. These portraits are taken in such a way that the figure isn’t too obvious within the image, yet exists within the background in an almost natural way as if the artist could have captured the picture just by chance. There is a sense of melancholy within these images, almost a looming darkness. The settings are deserted; empty cafes, a darkened hallway, outside a quiet residence. With just one single figure in each image there is a sense of loneliness and isolation. It is this emotiveness that perhaps makes the photographs strong giving them a feeling of intensity and intrigue.

 

Similarly Lauren Watts images also deal with empty spaces, yet they are conversely absent of human presence. ‘Yesterday, Today and Possibly Tomorrow’ stands as a collection of five images exploring the everyday and mundane spaces we occupy, such as school halls, cinema screens, and lecture halls. Void of any kind of special lighting or effects the images depict these interiors in their natural state. There is a sense of familiarity and realness about these images however there is also a strangeness about them, a quietness. Perhaps it is this emptiness that causes a slight feeling of eeriness. The images feel as if haunted to by human presence, it is the feeling one may get when walking alone through familiar streets in the quietness of night. Interesting because of these reasons Watts photographs cause the viewer to double take and consider these everyday space in a different light.

 

The final piece in the gallery is Abigail Collings ‘Looking Glass Self’. This is the sole video piece in the exhibition, which consists of two television monitors that simultaneously play morning and evening scenes over six consecutive days. The camera in this piece is both mirror and also eyes of the viewer as we watch the artist go about her daily routines, dressing and undressing herself, washing her face, putting on and wiping off make up. Looking Glass Self is a brave and interesting piece which seems to challenge conceptions of traditional self portraiture and as the artist fully exposes herself to the viewer in a reality style manner allowing the audience to explore the make up of ones persona.

 

Within this exhibition we see five individual degrees come to life in a professional gallery space. It is a degree show that is both varied and absorbing, the artists explore different themes in depth with interesting outcomes. A great start to the Photoradar Festival I now look forward to exploring what the other exhibitions across Nottingham have to offer.

 

Photoradar, 1st to 12th June 2009

www.photoradarfestival.co.uk

www.surfacegallery.org.uk

Front page image: Melanie Siddall, Untitled

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