Photo50: The New Alchemists

At a time when many are mourning the demise of film and traditional photography techniques, an exhibition at this year’s London Art Fair, Photo50, introduces a group of artists who are experimenting with analogue in new and unexpected ways…

Aliki Braine, Draw Me A Tree Black Out, 2006

At a time when many are mourning the demise of film and traditional photography techniques, an exhibition at this year’s London Art Fair, Photo50, introduces a group of artists who are experimenting with analogue in new and unexpected ways…

Curated by Sue Steward, the exhibition brings together the work of 12 photographers who are all exploring different ways to present images, and who use playful techniques to achieve surprising results.

A number of them use photographic images as a starting point to create original pieces of art. “Many images in this exhibition were produced through analogue processes and reveal surprising similarities with their digital counterparts; many mingle the two,” says Steward in the essay accompanying the show. “There is also the changing assumption that the photographic print is the finished object, the ultimate goal of production. But it is no longer necessarily the end-point; the printed paper is enduring transformation, partially destroyed or decorated, re-built to take on a new dimension – and becoming an original artwork in its own right.”

Julie Cockburn, Yellow Dress, 2011

Julie Cockburn, The Physicist, 2011

For example, Julie Cockburn, whose work is shown above, uses found photographs as a basis for her artworks, but then defaces and redesigns them by cutting, sewing or adding objects until a new image is formed.

Aliki Braine, Circle/Square, 2011

Aliki Braine, above and top, manipulates the photographic negatives to achieve different effects. “In an attempt at breaking the illusion of the photographic medium, I have been hole-punching negatives and sticking stickers on negatives, pushing photography towards abstraction,” she says.

Walter Hugo, Muse, 2011

Walter Hugo, Developing Shadows No. 5, 2011

Walter Hugo takes this experimentation even further, using traditional photographic techniques in wild and innovative ways to create exciting contemporary imagery. Hugo has printed onto lifesize glass plates and even directly onto walls by using photographic emulsion paint, creating ‘photographic frescoes’.

Jorma Puranen, Icy Prospects 46

Esther Teichmann, Untitled, 2009

Other artworks at Photo50 feature paint directly applied to the surface of photographs. As Steward writes in the essay, this is not a new idea, though the artists are still finding ways to innovate. “The technique developed by the celebrated Finnish professor of photography at Helsinki University, Jorma Puranen, is utterly original,” she says. “He takes a large wooden board which he coats with black glossy alkyd paint. He leaves the board in the arctic landscape, letting the elements work on the paint, disfiguring the surface. He then returns to photograph the relected landscape and the result is a unique ‘photograph painting’.”

Noemi Goudal, Haven Her Body Was (Warren), 2011

Lesley Parkinson, Bell Jar Zebra

Photo50 is on show at the London Art Fair in Islington until Sunday, and as so many of these works feature unique techniques and materials I would strongly recommend a trip down there to see them in the flesh. More info on the show (and the fair in general) is available here.



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