press release

SIMON NORFOLK: I Met A Traveller From An Antique Land...

One might describe British artist Simon Norfolk as a cultural archaeologist rather than a landscape photographer. Norfolk wants us to understand why landscapes look the way they do; and in his photographs he allows them to be storytellers. Simon Norfolk’s photographs reveal a romance in destruction. He draws his audience’s attention to the awful beauty of this destruction, not made by the passing of time as much as neglect and destruction by weapons of modern man. Norfolk’s imagery of the destruction is romantic, deliberately so, for his aim is to emphasis its awful beauty. He does so, however, not in order to mitigate or valorise the horror, or worse, sentimentalise it. Rather, he draws our attention specifically to the beauty of this landscape where so many terrible events have happened, in order to highlight that paradox, that grim irony, and make us question why. The best landscape photographers have always realised that they deal in visual meanings. They realise that they are making pictures, and pictures must engage in every way possible, embracing complexities and paradoxes so that the viewer is forced to think. Norfolk is aware that he walks a tightrope with these beautiful images of destruction. They may ask more questions than provide answers, but to provide answers is not their job. For answers we must turn, however sceptically, to the politicians.

In the Red Room: JUDITH McMILLAN

IIn her Optic Explorations Judith McMillan uses an x-ray machine to record the internal structure of plants, revealing a world hidden from the human eye. The project began with a lengthy period of methodical experimentation in order to determine the level of radiation and length of exposure that would produce an x-ray that would function as a photographic negative. The exposure range that a doctor or scientist would use to examine skeletal material creates a negative that is far too dense for photographic printing, and normally used levels of radiation burn through delicate plant material. In the prints from these x-ray negatives, the spidery veins of a leaf become exotically vivid and the petals of a flower form ghostly layers, opening our minds to an alternate view of reality.

In Nesting McMillan photographed in the research collections of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. These photographs explore the nest as architecture, revealing the distinct materials use individual species of birds and the complexity of forms achieved. At the same time the photographs investigate the mind of the collector who is driven to possess, preserve, and record what the bird has been able to achieve. In this case, with science there was sacrifice.

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Simon Norfolk // Judith McMillan