'Fugitive Associations' was at the Context Gallery Gallery 13th September - 11th October 1997
Review by Richard West
Issue 13 Autumn Winter 1997
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Supposition: Once the smallest detail has been understood then everything is understood. The title of a pair of photographs in an exhibition of the work of Mary McIntyre. So we look carefully at the pictures in search of a small detail in the hope that everything will fall into place only to discover that the details make the images more intriguing. Looking at a picture of back gardens we notice how neatly everything is divided up by box hedges and the peculiarities of each rectangle of garden. Why is there, for example, a lone football in one garden and a goal in the other as if they have been forcibly separated and isolated from one another? Then we notice in the corner of the picture a football stadium where perhaps they are awaiting the return of their equipment. Meanwhile directly beneath us a man tends his plants with his back to us, keeping his vegetation in mysteriously strict order and the right hand side of the picture contains a greenhouse that we will see later in the exhibition from the inside.
The cover of the Winter 1995/96 issue of Source featured an earlier photograph by Mary McIntyre; a peculiar image of a woman that had, with the aid of her trowel, planted herself head first in a field. These pictures while still wryly humorous do not feature people in absurd situations, in fact with the exception of the one meticulous gardener people are entirely absent. Absence is also apparent in three pictures of tables: in a room, a greenhouse and a yard. They are not particularly interesting tables and edge in from the sides of the pictures in modest fashion as if they are conscious of only having the role of supporting players, in all likelihood to an extravagant still life. There is however nothing on the tables and the title for the three pictures: putting the objects back in the inhabited world suggests the fruit, pheasants and silver goblets the tables normally present are being put to good use elsewhere. It may be interesting to see the stage set for once without the performers and we may smile that the inhabited world is enjoying the bounty we expected to see but we might also feel a little cheated.
The best works in the exhibition are a pair of pictures of an old, red, plastic bowl and a red, plastic milk crate lying in undergrowth. Though this may suggest extreme banality we discover from the title that one of these inoffensive domestic objects is a doppelganger, a double, presumably out in the woods to haunt its victim. Is the bowl haunting the crate or vice versa? Sitting under foliage, dappled in sunlight and behind a gate the bowl appears too retiring so it must be the crate, framed by branches and on a carpet of leaves. Has a milk crate ever been transformed into the threatening protagonist of a German Romantic folk tale before? If we all looked at milk crates like this would it have been thrown over the fence in the first place?
A carefully considered look at the conventions of image making and a comic perspective on mundane objects, Fugitive Associations is a stimulating and amusing exhibition.
Other articles by Richard West:
Source Photo: Do we need Photography Galleries? [Blog Post] ▸
Source Photo: The New Photo Galleries: A US Perspective [Blog Post] ▸
Source Photo: List Mania: 2011 Photobook Roundup [Blog Post] ▸
Source Photo: Is There a Crisis in Art Book Publishing? [Blog Post] ▸
Source Photo: Charlotte Cotton Resigns Media Museum [Blog Post] ▸
Issue 52: Teenage Girls at the Edges of Cities at Night... [Feature] ▸
Other articles mentioning Mary McIntyre:
Oral History Archive: Mary McIntyre Interview [Audio Interview] ▸
Other articles on photography from the 'Landscape' category ▸