Monthly Archives: February 2012

Art In Review – Gundula Schulze Eldowy at C/O Berlin

Gundula Schulze Eldowy, The Early Years
Photographs 1977-1990
C/O Berlin
10.12.11 – 26.02.12

“Berlin made me a photographer” – Gundula Schulze Eldowy

The upstairs of C/O Berlin was assigned to host Eldowy’s retrospective exhibition, approximately 120 photographs. Classic images from series such as ‘Berlin in einer Hundenacht’ (Berlin on a Dog’s Night) and ‘Tamerlan’, accompanied the entire series ‘Der große und der kleine Schritt’ (The Big and the Little Step). Each room represented a particular series of work and took the viewer on a different journey each time.

Eldowy was born in Erfurt in 1954 and moved to Berlin when she was 18. She documents life in Mitte, a district in the centre of Berlin, and later also in Dresden and Leipzig. She captures loneliness, sadness, misery and moments of happiness. Whoever her subjects may be, she is both fascinated and repelled by the social diversity and the harshness of the city. Her images are metaphors of social criticism and push the limits of what can be endured. They show affection yet no shame whatsoever, she re-experiences her subjects’ stories and subsequently becomes part of them. Her photographs arise from relationships rather than observations and are comparable to works by Nan Goldin, Boris Mikhailov and Nobuyoshi Araki.

“My meanderings through Berlin were nothing other than excursions into my inner unknown world” – Gundula Schulze Eldowy

The series that spoke to me the most was ‘Tamerlan 1979-87’, it documents the last years of an elderly woman whom Eldowy met on a park bench in Berlin. It follows her from her lonely one room shabby apartment to hospital where she eventually has both legs amputated, to her death. Although initially strangers from different worlds, the emotional journey the two women experience together over 8 years is documented beautifully and thoughtfully in black and white. Eldowy writes of her initial meeting with the woman “The intensity of her speech had a frightening effect. It lamed me, I was no longer able to concentrate on the photos and had to give up”.

Other works are somewhat more harrowing. The series ‘Der große und der kleine Schritt’ focuses on the ups and downs of life. It features images of childbirth, still born babies, nude portraits of families, destroyed buildings, the ill and dying and theater performers. This richly evocative and carefully curated series of images in colour and black and white takes the viewer on an emotional rollercoaster. Although often faced with uncomfortable subjects, we all can in some form relate to the lives of these everyday people whether we want to or not.

On this series, Eldowy writes “The existential experiencing of symptomatic life situations defines the character of the series. In existential situations each individual suffers what he in a deeper sense actually is. He gets to know himself through pain”.

Martha Boxley



Coming up next at The Strand Gallery, She Bop A Lula; an innovative Photo Exhibition curated by Dede Millar in partnership with Breakthrough – the UK’s leading Breast Cancer Charity.

Featuring 70 fabulous portraits celebrating some of the most successful and creative female singers over the last six decades – from Lady Day (Billie Holiday) to Lady Gaga – the show focuses on some of the world’s most iconic female musicians as captured by some of the world’s most influential female photographers. Subjects include Dusty Springfield, Ella Fitzgerald, Janis Joplin, Dolly Parton, Madonna, Nina Simone, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Diana Ross, PJ Harvey, Sinead O’Connor, Annie Lennox, Jessie J, Beyonce, Adele and many more, with all print sale proceeds going to charity.

The Story Behind The Image…
Lucy Hamblin describes photographing Laura Marling

“I heard Laura was coming to play a show in New York. The venue was very small and dark in the lower east side and we just shot by a wall beside the stage as it was bitterly cold outside.Some of her friends were sitting about watching: guys that later become Mumford and Sons, I had seen the rocking chair in a prop house and decided to blow the entire shoot budget renting it for a few hours.

Laura barely spoke the whole time but was thoughtful, charming and ethereal. She let me dress her: and in this case wore a vintage dress that I had dyed in  my bath tub the night before. The only real trouble came when Laura returned to her diligent sound check. A helpful Mexican called Jose arrived to help me load the horse back into the van. It was solid walnut and weighed a ton. I was at the back holding the tail and it came off in my hands. I cried like a toddler and had to pay a hell of a damage fee. I didn’t tell Laura until we worked together again last year…we had a good laugh about it.”

The Story Behind The Image…
Francine Winham describes photographing Millie Small

“This picture of Millie Small choosing a song on a jukebox was taken at a coffee bar on Park Lane, London in the early 1960s. I was working for Chris Blackwell, who had just started Island Records and I was his first employee! Chris had purchased the song My Boy Lollipop but didn’t yet know who would sing it.

When he put the song and Millie together it was an instant hit, the first for Island Records. I subsequently travelled the world with Millie as her chaperone and photographer.”

She Bop will be on show at The Strand Gallery from March 7th – 31st

Ubiquitous Grounds – 3is3 Identity Collective

This new exhibition at The Strand Gallery is presented by photography collective 3is3 identity. The artists Tom Kavanagh, Tim Deussen, Simon Slipek and Christian Kraatz offer different views on the relationship between people and places. A variety of styles such as portraits, documentary, street and fine art photography provides an insight into ubiquitous grounds.

We caught up with photographer Christian Kraatz in the run up to the show…

The Strand Gallery: So tell me a little bit about the collective…

Christian Kraatz: 3is3identity is an international group of photographers founded in 2010 by Julia Belling (curator/artdirector) and Christian Kraatz (photographer). Our aim is to put together shows related to the theme of Identity. Regular exchange about individual projects and curating group exhibitions brings dialogue, growth and inspiration for artists, supporters and the curious alike. Ubiquitous Grounds is all about the relations between people and places. Where and how we live has a huge affect on all of us and how we’re perceived by others and ourselves. Through the show we want to explore how each of us gives special meaning to spaces and communities around us and influence collective identities.

SG: You all come from different backgrounds both creatively and geographically – how did you end up meeting and forming the collective?

CK: Well it all fell into place in a way. When Julia and I decided to put together the first show we were looking for artists with a strong body of work related to the theme of identity. Also people who were willing to contribute more than just photographs. It was clear to us that with small budgets we can only succed if we share skills.

That was the starting point. We knew a lot of professionals from Germany and London is such a great place to meet creatives. So we asked around and called for submissions and I guess we found like minded people and people found us. The last three shows proved that a group of ambitious people are capable of much more complex ventures than a single individual.

SG: And you are running some events alongside the exhibition?

CK: Yes. Apart from the launch night we are going to have artist talks followed by Q/A sessions. Also a poetry reading by a Syrian writer who is writing something especially for Ubiquitous Grounds with the idea of giving the audience an additional approach to the theme.

The show “Ubiquitous Grounds” which runs from 24th-28th of February at The Strand Gallery and will feature artist talks, Q/A sessions and poetry.

Art In Review – Last Days of the Arctic – Ragnar Axelsson at Proud Chelsea

Ragnar Axelsson, Last Days of the Arctic
Proud Chelsea
26.01.12 – 11.03.12

– Whale Hunters, Thule

Last Days of the Arctic is a moving and insightful photographic portrait of a disappearing landscape and the Inuit people who inhabit it, by celebrated photojournalist Ragnar Axelsson.

Inspired by the fast-diminishing way of life of communities dependent on nature and the land around them for survival, Axelsson presents us with a breathtaking introduction to a life of Greenlandic hunters in one of the most remote regions of the world, and at once demonstrates its temporality.

– Little auks, Siorapaluk, North Greenland 1999

As the world turns its gaze toward the Arctic; the landscape whose inhabitants have done the least to cause climate change is where the devastating effects are most visible. Their ancient culture is set to become extinct; the probability of these communities continuing to live traditionally is becoming increasingly unlikely. In his native Iceland, Ragnar looked at the fishermen and farmers of remote villages and thought if he did not photograph them, then no one would know they ever existed. It is this thought that has led to this unique body of work captured in Greenland, with unprecedented access to a community that rarely let outsiders in.

Art In Review – Grayson Perry at the British Museum

Grayson Perry, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman
The British Museum

6.10.11 – 26.02.12

The Strand Gallery and Grayson Perry are old friends. In 2011 Perry was photographed by Martin Parr as part of Parr’s project What Would You Save in a Flood? and came to show his support on the opening night.

– Garyson Perry at The Strand Gallery with his photo by Martin Parr

This exhibition (The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman), curated by Perry himself, takes you on a magical tour through the British Museum’s unseen artefacts and Perry’s own bizarre and intriguing imagination. With Alan Measles; the artist’s favourite and very significant childhood teddy (photographed with Perry in Parr’s project), ‘the benign dictator’ of his imaginary world.

“When I was young I had an imaginary civilisation…now I am not sure where my imagination stops and the world begins.” – Grayson Perry

Before even entering the exhibition, you are greeted by a huge baby pink and blue custom-built motorbike (on which, sits a ‘stunt double’ of Alan Measles) which Perry drove to Germany with his teddy.

The first object you encounter after entering the exhibition is a large glazed ceramic vase entitled You Are Here (Grayson Perry, 2011). Around the vase are intricately drawn characters of everyday people with speech bubbles, ‘talking’ about the exhibition. One that caught my eye was the image of a young woman with the words ‘there was such a buzz about it on Twitter’ in her speech bubble.

The curation of the exhibition is impeccable. You are lead systematically on a journey, one theme at a time. Original artefacts are juxtaposed against Perry’s own modern replicas, created using traditional processes and using materials such as iron, ceramics, tapestry, wood and oil paint.

“I am constantly on the look-out for artefacts that somehow reflect but also enhance my visual language.” – Grayson Perry

“ Everything in the British Museum was contemporary once…I wanted it (the pot) to have the look of a mystical diagram whilst the content consisted of the banalities and buzzwords of February 2011.” – Grayson Perry The Frivolous Now, 2011.

Throughout the exhibition Perry reminds us of his, and indeed our, preoccupation with the digital age and the effect it has had on the way we view art. He writes “The multimedia collage of modern life makes it hard for an upcoming god to establish himself without a web presence.”

Perry explores a range of themes connected with notions of craftsmanship and sacred journeys such as shamanism, magic and holy relics, souvenirs, sexuality and gender and shrines. He believes that his role as an artist is similar to that of a shaman or a witch doctor. He writes that ‘artists are the hermits, saints and holy fools of the church of contemporary art’ and thinks that as humans, the way we look at art ‘has developed from the way we look upon gods, alters and relics in shrines and sacred spaces’. By placing objects behind glass or barrier lines, we give meaning and significance to them and recognise their creators as artists. So what happens when the same is done with a Hello Kitty pilgrim hand-towel or a souvenir badge? Perry shows us with this poetic and factual exhibition, that all objects can be traced back to their ancient origins.

He reminds us that beautifully crafted relics such as portable shrines, although perhaps seemingly archaic in modern society, are something we all carry ourselves in the form of photo albums on our smart phones.

As a self confessed transvestite, Perry explores questions surrounding gender roles and attitudes towards sex and sexual imagery. He places historical artefacts displaying nudity and cross dressing around his own piece entitled High Priestess Cape (2007) embroidered with colourful penis shaped birds perched on branches. While I stood in front of it, an elderly woman next to me whispered quickly and embarrassingly to her accompanying grandson ‘I think we’ll give that one a miss shall we’. I suppose that is exactly the reaction Perry is questioning with this piece.

The exhibition ends with the centrepiece, The Tomb of the Unknown Crafstman (Grayson Perry, 2011); the form of an iron ship sailing into the afterlife, with casts of artefacts from the museum’s collections, bottles representing offerings of blood, sweat and tears and the first ever tool; a flint axe over 250,000 years old. It is a memorial to all the anonymous craftsmen who crafted the artefacts of history. Perry refers to the British Museum as a kind of tomb itself.

“In celebrating craftsmanship I also salute artists, well most of them.”
– Grayson Perry.

Martha Boxley

Life Without Lights – Peter DiCampo

Ashden is a charity promoting sustainable energy and all the life-changing benefits it brings. They reward some of the best sustainable energy solutions in the UK and developing world. At their prestigious annual awards ceremony, winners receive a cash prize and global exposure.

“What an inspiring evening! I am humbled by what I’ve seen from these award winners. I congratulate them all and thank the Ashden Awards for occasions like this” – Sir David Attenborough speaking at the 2010 awards ceremony.

Ever thought about how much light you need to power your life? This years’ winner, American photographer Peter DiCampo visited Northern Ghana to find out just how hard it is to live without access to something we take for granted. His images give insight into the experience of the 1.4 billion people who currently live without electricity; people relying on candles, kerosene lanterns or torches to carry out daily activities.

Ashden are excited to be presenting his illuminating images in a unique exhibition at The Strand Gallery. Visitors will be handed a solar lamp to light their way through the darkened gallery and see what it’s like to live without lights. Members of the Ashden team will be on-hand to answer your questions.

At the start of the UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All this will be a very timely event raising awareness of a critical issue and some simple solutions.

“Life Without Lights” will be at The Strand Gallery until Sunday 12th Feb.

History of The Strand Gallery

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