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© Steve Rutter

Underexposed

A string of pearls of events and exhibitions along the Hastings/St. Leonards seafront last Friday night showed PhotoHastings in all its creative energy and exuberance. Like an iridescent silver halide print, the seafront positively glowed. From Alexander Brattel’s lively In Conversation at Stade Hall, to the opening of Octet at St Mary in Castle and finally to Norman Road, starting with Bob Mazzer’s truly wonderful Underground and culminating at The Garage for the opening of Underexposed, it was a night when these two towns were anything but underexposed. John Cole followed the creative trail and ended up at the Garage of the Horse and Groom pub to have a look at Underexposed and talk with the artists. Underexposed runs until 30th October.

Seven artists – Rose Biela, Tina Bowman, Alexander Brattell, Mel Brewer, Rachel Lever, Lauris Morgan Griffiths and Steve Rutter – are exhibiting seven very different bodies of work, all of which revolve around the idea of exploring things that are hidden, at times mysterious and bringing them to light using photography. In fact, many of the works felt more like paintings, etchings and sculptures than simply photographs.

“When we first saw the Garage, we immediately liked the space,” said Rose Biela. “It has an urban, slightly grungy feel to it.”

“We’re not a precious crew,” added Alexander Brattell. “Everyone has contributed to making this show happen. This is not the White Cube – in fact, you have to walk by the gents to get to the Garage – it’s more the Custard Polygon!”

“We wanted to use materials that were sympathetic to the environment of the Garage, so there was a theme of urban structures and urban decay,” continued Rose. “And we wanted to expand this to a larger remit of bringing into focus things unnoticed or unobserved. It’s also about enquiry and experimentation, and we felt the title Underexposed summed it up.”

© Rose-Biela

Rose Biela’s Our English Coast is about structures that help or impede our views. “Structures reflect how people live, reflecting decline and decay,” said Rose. “I’m a painter who uses photography and have been very much inspired by the Victorian painter William Holman-Hunt, who was interested in the same issues as I am, specifically the precarious nature of the coast.”

Rose’s image, On Margate Sands, appears at first to be a painting, and I wasn’t the only one who felt that. But she assured me that it is a photo, virtually un-PhotoShop’d, just shot as is. The texture of the rusting railings has a subtle luminosity, as if the scene had been painted, not photographed.

Lauris Morgan Griffiths’ work also has a painterly feel, especially her three images of water beading on glass. Her work challenges you to look at things that normally you wouldn’t think beautiful, and the mask of the raindrops forces the viewer to see things afresh. ”The water muffles what’s there, and gives it a different perspective. I’d like to think there’s a bit of mystery in my images. I guess I’m a bit of a day dreamer,” said Lauris. Daydreamer is a good word, for looking at her work is like a memory of an almost forgotten dream, which you can’t quite remember where it was, but the memory of a calm beauty is very strong.

© Lauris Morgan Griffiths

Rachel Lever also creates painterly images, some with a distinct Impressionist feel, like a Monet painting. Her work includes a sequence of Dusk till Dawn Smartphone shots. “I was wary of digital being too ‘perfect’ and technically correct,” said Rachel. “But that all changes after dark. I like daylight, but my camera loves the night. If I wake up and see a big moon, I just grab for my phone.”

© Rachel Lever

Pairs of lampposts looking sweet, bored and argumentative are not your usual photojournalistic fare. But then again, Alexander Brattell’s work is never about the obvious. Like the six other Underexposed exhibitors, Alexander breaks the rules by showing us images that make you look again to see what’s really going on.

© Alexander Brattell

“Two lamp posts started appearing in my pictures in the summer of 1999. Not the sort of thing you would go looking for, but that’s what my work is mainly about. They were occasional, sometimes in the background, and became a minor motif in my work, which was eventually abandoned. But they kept on appearing, eventually so insistently that they only way to stop them was to deliberately record them all, then gather them in one place.” Humour in photography is notoriously difficult to do, but Alexander manges it with his lampposts that seem so keen on communicating with the outside world.

Mel Brewer’s photos of patterns under a bridge are, like Lauris and Rachel’s work, very painterly. But by far her strongest work is the 30×20” copper etching of a view under Hastings Pier, made up of 264 individual copper pieces. Mel explained the lengthy process. “The original photograph is enlarged and printed onto transfer paper which has to be ironed onto each individual piece of copper. This transfer acts as a resist, which can then be etched. The copper is then cleaned, given a black patina and finally sanded and polished to allow the image to stand out from the background,” said Mel. “I spent virtually four weeks working flat out to create this work, very time consuming and precise.” Four weeks very well spent.

Photographer Steve Rutter’s work has the feel of another era, as if coming upon an exhibition of photographs in a Victorian art gallery. “I have always been interested in the practice and history of photography,” says Steve.” “Much of my work uses digital and analogue techniques together and I am always searching for new ways of merging the two. Recently I’ve been working with older analogue processes, including cyanotype printing, a very early process mixing different compounds of iron to produce light sensitive material, which is exposed under a negative in sunlight. In all my work surface texture is important for the final presentation, and some of my cyanotypes are printed on a variety of papers, cloths and even ceramics.”

Tina Bowman’s exhibition Weltzimmer Series (Weltzimmer meaning world room) refers to possibilities of the world being increasingly accessible to us within the place of our own homes. “I experience vertigo and disorientation in high-rise built environments,” said Tina. “And this alters my sense of perception to the extent that buildings and other objects appear to undergo physical transformation. I call this experience ‘distorption’, and by using a variety of explorations and experiments with materials I seek to recreate the experience.” Her most impressive work is the five-foot high Perspex X, with photos of sky scrappers and street views printed directly onto the plastic, creating a stunning combination of photography and sculpture.

Treat yourself to a pint in St Leonards’ Horse and Groom and then wander through to the Garage to have a look at Underexposed, one of the gems of PhotoHastings. The show closes on October 30th, so don’t miss it!

Open Thursday–Sunday 12-6p.m.

Posted 15:17 Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014 In: Photography

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