Photomatter: Disrupting the Photographic Image

“Whenever we want to force this ‘photomatter’ to yield new forms, we must be prepared for a journey of discovery, we must start without any preconceptions.

Hannah Höch, ‘On Today’s Photomontages’, 1934

Photomatter presents artworks that expand, dissect and disrupt the photographic image. Taking its title from a term coined by Hannah Höch in relation to photomontage, the exhibition explores the photograph as object, using the photographic image as a sculptural material. The exhibition brings together recent work by Holly Graham, Petra Kubisova, Sara Naim and Abigail Reynolds, artists who mine the limitations of photographic representation across a diverse range of media.

Holly Graham’s photographic puzzle boxes offer up flexible narrative structures, to explore the malleability of memory and the subjective nature of collective experience. Family photographs are translated into potentially interactive objects, that provide the promise of re-animation, releasing the photograph from its previous associations. Repositioning, dissecting and deleting photographic content allows Graham to abstract, juxtapose and ultimately alter images. This method imbues her works with a cross-fire of connections, mimicking the complex processes of recollection and unsettling the photographs’ relationship to time and memory.

In her series Interrupted Blood Cells, Sara Naim takes as her starting point microscopic images of her blood cells that have become digitally corrupted files. Although warped, these images each retain their differences, in a fusing of digital and biological information. Printed in black-and-white and resembling television static, the works are manipulated to emphasise the three-dimensionality of their paper support. Naim uses the distortion in the imagery to replicate the disconnection we feel to our internal bodies, which we can primarily only visualise through imagination.

Across her practice Petra Kubisova also scrutinises the relationship between photography and memory, investigating how remembering and forgetting can be captured and rendered into visual form. As we dream and recall events in fragments – never in full images – so fragmentation has become key to her investigation. Seeking to question and destabilise photographic representation, Kubisova explores the objecthood, surface and physical materiality of the photographic image. Her work tests the legibility of the image and pushes our perceptual capacities to their limits, as she stretches the flat form of the image into space.

Overlaying and interweaving two separate images, Abigail Reynolds’ works rupture the paper they are printed on, uniting the two sources. Carefully selecting her images from books, postcards and photographic archives, her process of folding them into each other, breaks the picture plane in order to build it again. Each photograph represents a point in time – Reynolds unpicks these moments, highlighting the fragmentary and partial nature of historic record.

Whether corrupting photographic content, juxtaposing disparate elements, or breaking down the picture plane, the works in Photomatter complicate and open up our engagement with the image. Interfering with the medium in diverse ways, the artists mobilise photography to lay bare the fallibility of perception and recollection. Together, these works testify to the limitations of the photographic image as a record of a moment in time and a fixed depiction of a subject. In subverting these concerns, these works allow photography to take on a new set of relations, resonances and possibilities.

Holly Graham, b. 1990, lives and works in London. Recent exhibitions include A Picture of Summer, Portobello Photography Gallery, London (2014), Wild at Heart and Weird on Top, Cafe Gallery, London (2014), and Pushing Print, The Margate Gallery and The Pie Factory, Margate (2013). Petra Kubisova, b. 1981, lives and works in London. Recent exhibitions include SHOW RCA, Royal College of Art, Battersea, London (2014), and Venez Fruits Presses, La Manutention, Paris (2014). Sara Naim, b. 1987, lives and works in London. Recent exhibitions include Summer Show 2014, The Third Line Gallery, Dubai (2014), Need you 100%, Display Gallery, London (2014), Peckham Sprints, Sassoon Gallery, London (2014) and Hindsight, V1 Gallery, Copenhagen (2014). Abigail Reynolds, b. 1975, lives and works between London and St Just, Cornwall. Recent exhibitions include The White Hotel, Gimpel Fils, London (2014), Box A: Accidents, Kestle Barton, Manaccan, Cornwall (2014) and Double Fold, Rambert, South Bank London (performance, 2013).

Curated by Antonia Shaw and Jessica Cerasi, in collaboration with Diversity Art Forum.

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