Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Looking at Art 3: Tino Sehgal at Tate Modern

Looking at Art: personal and opinionated rambles on what I've seen, probably with a lot of reference to my own work...

Tino Sehgal at Tate Modern, London 24 July 28 October 2012

Tate Modern - any visit to London's temple to Art always throws up unexpected delights, you go for one thing and come out with another.

Take today for example. If anything, I would have thought I'd be writing about the Edvard Munch show. I'd found the 1992 Munch show at London's National Gallery intensely moving like no other painting show I'd seen. This Tate show though, turned out to be a more academic presentation, which for me served to suck the emotional punch out of the work.

So maybe it would be the Tanks. Unrefined, industrial spaces just off the Turbine Hall, strange to think these huge rooms have been there all along. Unfortunately, at the moment they're filled with the kind of dark room, TVs on the floor art that I find underwhelming and unengaging.

The double photography show then,
William Klein and Daido Moriyama. Some good work here but the sheer quantity is quite overwhelming, and all fairly similar. Nothing that grabbed my attention. Well, there was something that did, but we'll get to that!

I've enjoyed pretty much all of the Tate Turbine Hall installations. They're usually pretty adventurous commissions, whether it's a little crack in the floor that changes the space in a big way, or bringing the outdoors indoors, or creating the very blackest of black spaces to make you wonder if you exist at all.

The current installation was by Tino Sehgal, an artist I didn't know. All I did know was that he had brought in performers to engage you in passing conversations. Not really my sort of thing, sounded a bit pretentious. So I decided to give it a go and hung about in the wide open space after I arrived to see what happened. Nothing did. I looked for the wall text, the leaflet, the whatever, to tell me what I wasn't seeing. Nothing anywhere. So I'd moved on to the other attractions, as above.

Up in the
William Klein show, a little side room showed one of his films. This little side room overlooked the Turbine Hall, and there was something going on down there. In the big open space at the far end little groups of people were chasing each other around. 'There's the art!' I thought.

Back down for a second look. The usual people milling around; students, families, trendy types, older couples, school parties. Then somebody walked past me. Backwards. Then somebody else. I turned around, and in amongst the sparse crowd there were a few of them, then more, walking backwards towards the end of the huge space.

It was quite unnerving, to have these people amongst us in on a secret we don't know. The sudden unified sense of purpose was jarring, like being in a zombie film. Where were they going?

Children and grown ups joined in compulsively with the backwards walking. Now, who was who again? Which ones were the 'performers'? And so it went, a pack running around, chasing and dodging each other in smaller groups, sidestepping, sitting, strolling and humming. And all the while you can get right in amongst it - it's quite exhilarating!

Or unsettling. Like when the players whirled around you at speed, like you may have seen fish do in packs to protect the group from predators. That kind of passive aggressive feeling was underlined when they'd purposefully fix your eyes with a steely gaze as they passed - a chilling encounter.

At points, the individuals (they didn't seem like a group) would sit down and start a complex poetic choral recital in unison, all around you - the effect was dizzying and euphoric. To be amongst such a range of voices, to move from one to another freely was a wonderful experience. Sometimes the lights in the whole hall would go on and off in unison with their chants - interesting, but felt a bit distant from the work for me, a bit too gimmicky. When they sang, you could see who the performers were, but as maybe not all of them sing, still nothing is certain.

Now and again a performer would approach you purposefully and directly and simply say 'This piece is called Other Associations. It's by the artist Tino Sehgal'. And there was my wall text announcing the piece. So simple, but so different, a great idea.

And there were the conversations. They'd sidle up to you, starting 'When I was young...', 'A couple of years ago...', or 'There was a man I very much admired...'. I heard stories from various lives. About wanting to tunnel to New Zealand as a boy, then remembering
that decades later atop a volcano on the South Island and having an epiphany of arrival . About getting caught out on live TV, skipping school for Glastonbury. About a mother whose son left a musical recording on her computer when he left to live in Spain, a thank you for her patience while he learnt the guitar in his own way, rather than how she did. About a guy she knew who always used to explain his outlandish actions, like keeping a wild husky dog in their holiday ski lodge, with the phrase 'I couldn't resist!'.

But this wasn't like a play, or immersive theatre. It felt quite comfortable for me to talk back. These were conversations. So I'd ask questions, and we'd end up talking about the growth of the internet since we were young, digging on the beach, Iggy Pop, music lessons, and on and on. Coming at the end of a week where I'd been talking about my work at a Private View and an Art Fair, it seemed quite natural to converse with these strangers. An unusual situation - not to be repeated I'm guessing.

One person who spoke to me answered some of my questions - yes, it was a true story, yes, some people refuse to talk back, and yes, some readily took offence. It occurred to me that I could play a character too, and be nasty or dismissive. Might be fun, but I didn't have the courage for it, and besides, it's nice to be nice.

The further thought occurs that perhaps not all the conversationalists are part of the piece. If you want talk to strangers at length with no real risk of repercussions, this is the time and place to do it. And why not? If the participant's stories are true anecdotes from their own lives, yours are no less valid. 

All in all a great piece that left me with lots of questions about how we deal with other, and with memories of those exciting moments in the midst of frenzied activity. I'd thought it wasn't really my thing -  but patience and openness paid dividends.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Rooftop Collective Edition 2 - preview

The pictures are up, and the new show is all ready for the opening and Private View tomorrow night (Thursday 4th) at theprintspace in East London. Full details at the bottom of this post!

It's a very big white space and the work is hanging together really well. The show expresses how far we've come as a group of photographers since last year's show. As well as a real step up in the gallery space, we had much more choice about how the work would fit together as a whole with so much more space to breathe. There are five of us exhibiting, and the work is really 'talking' to each other nicely across the walls.

For my part,  I had recently completed working through my images from 2011 and I wanted to boil down a survey to explore one aspect of the year's work. This is slightly different to previous exhibitions (including last year's Rooftop Collective show), which explored a single theme. Whilst all the work does in effect form one composed piece, the connections between the pictures are perhaps not quite so obvious than in a more straightforwardly themed show.

There are two groups of images on the wall, focusing on geometry and details. One aspect of my photography is, I think, the desire show the simple and sometimes sublime pleasures that can be had by taking a slower and more considered look at everyday scenery and situations. I want to make you slow down and stop and look - where colours and materials meet, you can find real and unexpected beauty. I hope to create something new that can feel both interesting and beautiful, both mysterious and familiar.

I really enjoyed creating the Harvest of 2010 blog series (explore it here) and found it useful in starting to divine why I take pictures, and this in turn improves my work I think. Whilst those writings went through the year chronologically, this year I'm going to explore the year thematically, and discussion of the individual pictures in this show will form the backbone of the first instalment of Harvest of 2011, which will appear here in the next week or two, once the dust has settled from the double whack of the Private View and Photofair!

So, you can think of the exhibition as a preview or launch for Harvest of 2011. It's really worth getting to the show if you can, to see the real prints in the flesh. All the artists will be at the Private View, and there is some great work on show, some beautiful prints. We only do these group shows once a year - so it's not to be missed.

I hope to see some of you on Thursday night or on Saturday at the London Photomonth Photofair - another great opportunity to see (and buy if you like) lots of great photography from the artists themselves - around 100 of them! It's an exciting atmosphere with lots of places to eat and drink, and a chance to see lots of new work from me. Read about last year's here.

Details of the group show -

My own personal flyer, including a map, and details of the London Photomonth Photofair on Saturday where I'll be too!

Note that the gallery is only open Monday to Friday, so unfortunately you can't combine a visit with Photofair on Saturday.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Waking up... to lots of news!

Family commitments and some incredibly busy times over at Paul Clifford Images have led to a lack of posts here of late (to say the least!). Well, I'm sorry, and now I'm back, and with lots of news!

- 'The Rooftop Collective Edition 2' exhibition -
Oct 3 - 24, 2012 
Monday to Friday: 9am to 7pm  
theprintspace, 74 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DL
Private View is the evening of Thursday 4th, 7pm - 9.30pm. 
This is my second annual exhibition with the small group of photographers I work with - some of you will remember last year's show, where I exhibited images of doors and windows - read more about that here.

This year I'll be showing all new work from 2011 (I do lag behind with my work for a purpose - I'll explain why in another post sometime!), that is more abstract in nature. Hopefully I'll find time to post some teasers and previews here.

It's a lovely space, and you'll get to see all the other photographer's work too.
The official press release reads - 'Seven London-based photographers present individual perspectives in their second annual digest. Images incorporate pinhole photography, English allotments, spatial interpretations, the USA's Deep South, self-portraits and geometric abstractions.'

It's worth noting that the gallery is not open at the weekend - so you may find the best way to see the show is at the after hours Private View on the 4th, 6 til 8.30. You're quite welcome. That also ties in nicely with East London's First Thursday event, when over 100 galleries throw open their doors for the evening. See
- Photomonth Photofair 2012 -

Saturday 6th October 2012 10am - 6pm
Spitalfields Traders Market, Brushfield Street, London E1 6AA

On the Saturday following the Private View I will be taking part in the Photomonth Photofair. I really enjoyed it last year (picture right), it's a great chance to show a lot of work to a lot of people.

There'll be more than 100 stalls and stands with photography, books and magazines for sale. If you love photography, you really should go!

Come and see me! I'll be selling a range of over a hundred affordable framed prints - great unique Christmas gifts!
- 'Recent Work' at Libertea soon to close -
My show at Libertea in North London will be closing mid September. It's been a great chance to get my pictures out there for an extended exhibition. The response has been really positive, and they now feel like part of the furniture I'm told! This is your last chance to see the show. Once it's down, I'll post a catalogue at

All the details of the show are here. Don't miss out!
- Harvest of 2011 coming soon -
The Harvest of 2010 series of blog entries here going through a year's worth of my work, with commentary, proved very popular. I'll soon be compiling them into one page at In the meantime, you can click here to read all seven parts individually.

The show in October at theprintspace will act as a launch for Harvest of 2011, which I hope to start here on the blog over the next few weeks, keeping the instalments fairly regular.

- Facebook on, Twitter off -

My Facebook page is still going strong, so go there and click LIKE to stay up to date, posts there are much more regular! The blog here is for more in depth material.

My Twitter account, on the other hand, hasn't been so regular, so with apologies to my handful of followers, I don't think I'll be using that any more. I struggled to find unique tweets that didn't fit better on Facebook or here.

So that's it for now, keep a eye out over the coming weeks for more. Email to subscribe to this blog, or visit and LIKE the Facebook page above. 


Friday, 17 February 2012

Looking at Art 2: Catherine Yass: Lighthouse

Looking at Art: personal and opinionated rambles on what I've seen, probably with a lot of reference to my own work...

Catherine Yass: Lighthouse at the
Alison Jacques Gallery, London - 13 January - 17 February 2012

I first came across Catherine Yass's startling photographs in an abandoned swimming pool in 1998. Using multiple positive and negative exposures, she creates alluring lightboxes from smart compositions of interesting subjects. This recent London show was all about the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse - 5 miles out from England's South coast. A wonderful subject for a no-nonsense photographer like Yass.

Lighthouse (East), 2011 © Alison Jacques Gallery
There were only a few images at the show, initially a disappointment, as these lightboxes have to be seen in person to appreciate their dynamic colours, so I always grasp any chance I get. The main attraction, like Zarina Bhimji last time, was a film piece. I'm pleased to say that, again, the film was perfectly presented and projected in a lovely clear and quiet space.

The lighthouse itself is perched on the corner of a square platform which is itself atop a cylinder with an extruded platform halfway down. That tiny circular platform circumnavigates the pillar, and is reached via a door from inside the pillar. Climbing down from there is a battered and barnacled ladder reaching down into the depths. Around the bottom of the large square platform are triangular struts to support walkways, but only one side has a walkway attached today. On one or more of the others doors open out onto a nothingness that is plainly something sometimes.

I know all this because Yass takes us on a wonderful trip to the place, evocative and descriptive, an intimate barnacles-and-all portrait all around, above and below the structure. And, more than still images or paintings or architect's plans, it does feel like a portrait with character.
All images © Alison Jacques Gallery
All images © Alison Jacques Gallery

The film explores the whole scene vividly and thoroughly in a series of dizzying but formal long helicopter shots. Sometimes upside down, sometimes side to side, but never clumsy and never silly. Sometimes it pans right down onto the sea, the fierce ripples form the helicopter's silent blades signalling another rotation and spin, how will things look when we rise again?

The camera patiently covers all the angles, revealing the detail you want to see. You've seen the ladder from a distance, and ask yourself 'Where does that go? How do you get to to it?' Yass delivers the answers patiently and elegantly, and when you wonder how far beneath the water it goes, you are shockingly plunged under, to see the ladder and pillar through the murk.

The shot revolves around the sides of the platform revealing those ghost platforms, the dead end doors. There's no people shown and we never see inside, but we learn so much about life here by seeing how the platform is navigated, the ladders, the barriers, the doors. That seaborne ladder isn't to go down into the sea, it's to come up from a boat.

Want to know what the bottom of the platform looks like from down there? There it is bobbing on the huge screen - feeling like the dirty revelation of a secret space so rarely seen, especially compared to the spick and span white of the platform above.
All images © Alison Jacques Gallery

All images © Alison Jacques Gallery
All this adds up to what amounts to a loving portrait that may sound dry and diagrammatic, but is actually a giddy pleasure. And, like Bhimji, it's shot through with a photographer's eye for detail and composition, and a photographer's patience.

A great piece - if you ever get the chance to see it, you should!

All images © Alison Jacques Gallery