I enjoyed looking at the work of this year's Graduate students. I am not sure an online platform such as this one does justice to all the participants' endeavours, as there are obviously some elements missing in this type of presentation (especially if the printing process or physical image play a key role in experiencing the work). I also found the division in categories and genres somewhat arbitrary and too prescriptive (although I understand its utility) and some of the works suffered because of it. The exercise was, however, very useful and enabled me to explore current trends in photography and map areas of research: The über personal as a device for coping with and healing from traumatic experiences, the relationship between photography and the sculptural space and the built environment (i.e. ephemeral installations or constructions), colour field painting and explorations in primary colour and light, the digital and the disappearance of analogue photography and film. These are some of the themes that have emerged during the survey.
Selector's Comment: Craig Wye subtly sabotages the idea that War-related photography (as we have become accustomed to it being portrayed in Western media) can be challenged by the independent use of mobile devices. He also interrogates the truthfulness of self-generated content (distributed via social-media platforms) as opposed to the ambivalence of the media. Ultimately, insisting on the same clichéd images of war-zones and conflict that are portrayed in mainstream cinema, Wye simply reinforces the idea that dominant narratives of history are already ingrained in the eye of the beholder.
Selector's Comment: Characterised by a striking use of colour and a distinct sense for composition, the work of Crutchfield is possibly the best 'commercial' work in this year's selection. I appreciated the visual immediacy of the images and the photographer's ability to summarise in few selected elements the essence of her practice, pointing directly at the core of her research. Crutchfield's eye-candy style is contrasted by the rigorous geometrical 'cuts' of her compositions, creating a nice tension between minimalist-inspired abstraction and the representation of a dream-like colourful world.
Selector's Comment: Revisiting the history of ethnographic and documentary photography, Raluca Dragoi presents a robust body of work dedicated to her home country Rumania, focusing on ancestral rituals and long-established traditions. Similarly to well-known photographers such as Charles Fréger, Alecsandra documents ancient rituals, the existence of which clashes against our vision/understanding of Europe as a technologically advanced society, that had lost contact with nature and wildlife. In my opinion she is the author of the best single shot in this year's selection: the boy looking right into the camera wearing a bearskin.
University of South Wales, Newport - BA (Hons) Documentary Photography
Selector's Comment: Parker's project speaks a language that can be understood by audiences from around the world, yet retaining a very distinctive 'British voice'. Traditional categories such as Beauty and the Sublime, conventionally associated to landscape painting and photography, stand at the core of her investigation. However, this tradition is put under scrutiny and questioning. The bucolic and allegedly 'uncontaminated' landscapes wherein Parker intervenes urge us to reflect on our relationship to the environment and sustainable development.
Selector's Comment: Hawthorn's work is claustrophobic and slightly disturbing, but has unquestionably a seductive quality to it. It was only after I had selected his images, that I realised that he was operating within the constrictions of "limited-mobility". He masters light, subject matter and composition in a way that is reminiscent of the vanitas tradition in painting. And yet, he is able to stage in each image a surreal (or hyper-real) atmosphere that is exquisitely photographic. His work is almost forensic in style although entirely fictional. Analytical, morbid are other adjectives that spring to mind.
UCA Rochester - BA Hons Photography Contemporary Practice
Selector's Comment: Finn-Swedish photographer Gustaffson encapsulates in her work many elements and themes that came to characterise the 'Nordic School' of photography over the last years. Solitude, a remote distance, an almost bodily and totally introspective relation to nature, meditation, nostalgia, memory, a disquieting calmness: these are amongst the features that emerge from her photos. Playing between 'cold' and 'warm', proximity and alienation, the photographer comes close to poetry in her quest for belonging and romanticising what instead appears to be lost.
Selector's Comment: Many of the viewed projects revolved around coming to terms with post-traumatic effects at a personal level. They mostly pointed at self-healing or finding ways for coping with disease or accidents-related distress. I naturally respect all these positions, but the project that really struck a chord with me is Jonathan's. He is like a bricoleur engaged in fixing that which is broken and does not work anymore. With the same passion and commitment of a gardener working in a nursery, Graham has found a beautifully simple metaphor in his work that comes across loud and clear.
Selector's Comment: The series by Newing I liked the most is 'Gone'. This encompasses a number of 'activated sculptures' that seem to live only within the time-lapse of one frame. Similarly to the One Minute Sculptures by Erwin Wurm (minus the irony and Beckettian nonsensical absurdity), Newig captures the idea of the ephemeral in art, of its instability. As such, he also interrogates the role of photography as a means of documentation for the visual arts, asking his audiences where do they think the art (or its manifestation, rather) lives: whether in the moment when the image was taken, in its photographic reproduction, or simply in the realm of ideas and intentions.
Lorenzo Fusi is Director at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool. Lorenzo moved to the North West of England in 2009, when he was appointed as the International Curator of the Liverpool Biennial. He curated the 2010 and 2012 reiterations of the biennial exhibition. During this time, he became first involved with Open Eye Gallery as a result of the institutional collaborations and cultural partnerships that characterise the UK biennial from its inception. Prior to this appointment, Lorenzo was Chief Curator at Palazzo delle Papesse and sms contemporanea (Siena, Italy).