By Stephen Clarke
We are aware of what is ‘in’ a photograph, what we are less aware of is what is ‘not in’ a photograph, what is either outside the frame or not visible. At the outset of the exhibition the viewer’s vision is blocked by Nicholas Milhé’s photo-sculpture ‘Meurtrière (Dolomites)’ (2009), a wall-sized image of an Alpine scene mounted on to one side of a wooden wall. This barrier stops us from seeing what is beyond but in the centre of the image a vertical slit provides us with the means to pierce this barrier. The viewer is asked to look at what is behind an image while actually looking at a photographic image. The reverse side of the photo-sculpture resembles a fortified structure and the viewing slit allows viewers behind the image (in one sense ‘in’ the photograph) to peer at the viewers of the image (who are outside the photograph).
What lurks unseen within a picture? We see in the light not the darkness, in the darkness lurks the unseen. In Pietro Mattioli‘s photographs there is not much to see apart from the darkness. For his project ‘Two Thousand Light Years from Home’ (2006 – 07) Mattioli walked around his local neighbourhood at night recording what he could not see, his territory defined by the signal from home of his sleeping baby’s monitor. What is in these photographs are familiar fragments such as trees, fences and walls highlighted against the blackness but made unexplicable by artificial lighting. What is not in the photograph keeps us guessing.
If Mattioli is a parent patrolling his territory, mapping his space, then Rebecca Lennon tags her territory with the spray can and records the act with a video camera. In her video ‘Uncomfortable Silence i’ (2012) Lennon spray-paints pieces of detritus on a city street. A graffitist who records her own criminality, the video serves as evidence in one sense but also may be the artist policing her territory, marking out evidence. Lennon makes visible the objects selected and fixes the moment of her action with her camera.
The camera is a prosthetic eye, allowing us to see the impossible. All of Alison Stolwood’s photographs are impossible in that they are all composites. ‘Light Trap (Fluorescent)’ (2010) seems a simple picture of moths at night attracted to a light source, but this image is made up from several exposures which are brought together using Photoshop. ‘Seed Composite 01’ (2011) is a montage of a number of scans of seeds laid out on the scanner bed producing what appears to be a starry night-time scene. ‘Sor Brook’ (2011) replicates the process of the scanner, displayed as a triptych, the brook is scanned by the artist as she photographs it from three adjoining positions. What is ‘in’ these photographs by Stolwood is time, invisible but present.
The calls of seagulls are the first thing that you notice when you enter the gallery. ‘This is what they built the Ship with’ (2011) is a sound piece by Rebecca Lennon. The gulls gradually become outside of our attention, we are aware of their presence but lack a picture of them. Although a group exhibition Patrick Henry, the curator and director of Open Eye Gallery, has pointed out that this is not a thematic show. Instead he has brought together bodies of work that have resonances with each other. These unexplained resonances might just be concerned with what we see and what we don’t see in photographs.