Still Outside (or Unexplained) presents four artists, from the UK, France and Switzerland. They share common ground, closely observing and reworking parts of their environments that might otherwise be unseen or neglected. Using still and moving images, they question what we see as natural and artificial, and what we think we know about the world around us.
Pietro Mattioli’s (b. Switzerland) series Two Thousand Light Years from Home reveals a hidden landscape in the artist’s immediate surroundings. Mattioli took these pictures at night, as his child slept, over three seasons in 2006-7, never straying beyond the reach of his baby monitor’s signal. Pools of light from his camera’s flash isolate and transform an array of familiar objects. The project documents Mattioli’s nocturnal wanderings and creates a catalogue of hidden beauty in the everyday.
Nicolas Milhé’s (b. France) work explores power, surveillance and the seductiveness of images. Open Eye Gallery presents a 3 metre-long sculpture emblazoned with a gigantic image of a tranquil Alpine landscape. Penetrated by a vertical arrow-slit aperture, it transforms the gallery into a territory under surveillance and a place of potential violence. Here, Milhé points to a sinister terrain behind the idealised image of the northern European landscape. For him the image is a mask that conceals the harsher realities of contemporary politics.
In her video work Uncomfortable Silence i (2012), Rebecca Lennon (b. UK) meticulously spray-paints white a series of objects selected from the detritus of a city street. The gesture recalls the marks that mysteriously appear on roads before works begin, or the white lines that mark the location of a corpse at a murder scene. Executed according to its own enigmatic, ritualistic logic, each action reclaims and transforms its object.
Rebecca also presents a large-scale sound installation, This is what they built the ship with (2011), in the high-tech, glazed concourse adjacent to the gallery. In what the artist describes as a “call from the wild, in reverse”, the calls of seagulls, sampled from YouTube and auto-tuned to assume an eerie perfection, will burst intermittently into the space.
Alison Stolwood (b. UK) takes a critical look at the idea of nature as something apart, pure and picturesque. Her photographs highlight the ways in which time and perception act on the landscape. They hint darkly at something that is both a product of our interference with the environment, and elements of it that are beyond our control.
Stolwood writes: “I like to isolate a small part of our infinitely complex surroundings, in order to think about the impossibility of understanding the whole. I use the lens as an aid to observation and as a tool for manipulation, power and control.”
Open Eye Gallery was founded in 1977 in the former Grapes Hotel in central Liverpool. As well as one of the UK’s first photography galleries, it housed darkrooms, film and video production facilities and recording studios, which played a major part in Liverpool’s vibrant 1980s music scene. The title for this exhibition, Still Outside (or Unexplained), is borrowed from the B-side of a 7″ single by the new wave band Systems, published by Open Eye Records in 1981.