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© Sun Bozkurt

© Sin Bozkurt

A photographic sense of place

It is certainly to be welcomed that there is a new gallery space in Hastings – at the former Observer building. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths went there, with great anticipation, to see the PhotoHastings exhibition Pinups: A Sense of Place.

First things, first. I think it’s a stimulating exhibition; intriguing, magical and reflective However, I think the impact of the art is let down by the space. I appreciate the building is somewhat ‘tired’ and traces of dilapidation can add to the flavour of a space; distressed walls are acceptable, new characterless, blocks of brown boards are not. If the Observer building is hiring out the space for art exhibitions, they could be more accommodating by simply allowing the boards to be painted and introducing more sympathetic lighting.

Curated by Grace Lau and Andrew Moran, the theme, A Sense of Place, has been interpreted by the twenty artists in their own individual ways. These photographers, some very established, others embryonic in their photography careers, exemplify the talent there is in Hastings and St Leonards.

Whale Oil Drums, Deception Island © Brian Rybolt

Whale Oil Drums, Deception Island © Brian Rybolt

Subjects range over nature, pollution, memories and landscape. Understandably, with Hastings’ geography, water, sea and woods play quite a major part, although there are photographs taken in Romania, Poland, Shanghai, Antarctica, eastern Europe and Russia.

Though predominantly landscape images, people do figure. Sin Bozkurt has captured a moment backstage showing the reality as opposed to the supposed glamour. The dressing room is busy and crowded yet the performers are quietly absorbed as they dress and prepare for the performance; hair being curled, make-up applied, clothes parked on an ironing board.

John Cole shows the transition in Romanian life from dictatorship to fledgling democracy after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu in 1990. It could be an image taken decades earlier, save for the giant ghetto blaster held by one of the Romanian gypsy women.

Chris Mammone has taken the garishness out of the amusement arcade by photographing a girl in black and white; lonely, out of time, sitting not on an aspirational, gleaming sports car but a miniature car ride.

© Martin Everett

© Martin Everett

Frank Francis features another solitary figure standing still, reflecting in the sea shallows, after or before a swim, as well as  a rather more dynamic one of a man throwing sticks with the silent splash and action of dogs leaping in the sea.

Martin Everett has produced polaroid meditative still lives at St John the Evangelist church in Pevensey Road. Taken at night, the images perfectly embrace and embody the quiet solitude of the church’s atmosphere.

Alex Brattell’s black-and-whites make me ponder in a different way. He shows the shadows, marks and  history of life imprinted on the walls and streets; light shining quietly on a deserted corner; a macabre hand print slides down a wall.

Brian Rybolt illustrates the majestic Antarctic landscape with dilapidated houses, oil tanks rusting into the land showing only too clearly man’s existence and intervention in  the snowy, towering backdrop.

Husband and wife Tim and Mary Morris show different but fragile, swirling rivulets and river banks; beautiful traces of eddies in the mud, tidal flow, the effects of man not far away, the taming of woods in forestry and bits of washed-up debris.

Karin-Marie Wach captures a journey along the River Thames seductively, showing the debris the river collects on its journey; the red of a petrol can, the blue

© Mel Brewer

© Mel Brewer

and white of plastic. The same image repeating, woven into an aquatic flow.

Mel Brewer has six black-and-white, blurred images of trees. To me, they are reminiscent of wild woods and slightly scary, secretive, precarious times of childhood. They capture that dizzy feeling of running as the trees merge and haze the fading light.

© Roz Cran

© Roz Cran

Roz Cran’s images are gems of mystery and secrecy showing her interest in our relationship with the natural world – “in the magic of being, the connectedness of places, people.” Images of her in a rabbit’s costume taken in Ireland in search of holy wells. Curious. I think of the White Rabbit disappearing down the rabbit hole – who knows what one will discover?

Nicole Zaaroura’s piece, A film in my purse… is equally intriguing. She projected the quiet repetition  of her progress up the stairs in St John the Evangelist onto walls and surfaces in cities in Mostar, Sarajevo, Tirana and Athens; “making a pilgrimage of a kind, relying on the aesthetics of repetition and the pulse of the city, its visibility and invisibility, its sense of place …  How to be stark and invisible.”

And the Damien Hirst title prize goes to Andrea Artz for her installation piece The Importance of Developing a Capacity for Boredom PT I and II. She has painted a photograph onto muslin of the Stade fishing boats with pebbles arranged underneath in a circle below.

There are twenty artists in all, too many to mention individually. For which I sincerely apologise. But do go and discover the work for yourself.

Pinups: A Sense of Place: until 14 November at the Observer Building, 53 Cambridge Road, Hastings TN34 1DT. Open Wed-Sun, 11am-6pm.

Posted 19:22 Monday, Nov 2, 2015 In: Photography

2 Comments


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  1. Lauris Morgan-Griffiths

    I agree that it is great to have the exhibition space. However, my understanding is that the curators asked if the boards could be painted and they were told that if they did they would have to return them to their original state – which sadly is not possible.

    Comment by Lauris Morgan-Griffiths — Tuesday, Nov 3, 2015 @ 11:06

  2. Alan

    I think you are being a bit harsh on the OB. It’s being run on a shoestring budget and they only have 10 months left on the lease. But grateful there is a space for the exhibition. I’m sure Erica and Co would be only too happy to furnish you with a paintbrush and paint if you wished artistic exersise.

    Comment by Alan — Monday, Nov 2, 2015 @ 19:46

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