Thursday, 16 January 2014

Thoughts on Chris Steele-Perkins 'Japan Suite'

Chris Steele-Perkins at L A Noble Gallery

Curating the current exhibition was a pleasure as working with Chris is a breeze - his friendly professional nature & efficiency make for a gallerist's dream.

In the recent review in TimeOut Nina Caplan really understood the curatorial choices of the exhibition & gave us 4 stars! 

The exhibition has been extended to 1st Feb 2014.

His talk was popular we did it twice! During the course of the talk one statement stood out for me: 

'I'm very aware of formalistic methods of photography - that is - the grammar. To stretch the analogy - if you don't get the grammar right the sentence doesn't make any sense.'

What a fabulous way to describe something that is almost risqué these days, 'formalistic methods'. Music to my ears hearing a great photographer avoiding the flowery artspeak in favour of honesty, bliss…

It takes me back to good old fashioned things like colour wheels, perspective, structure. These are not things to be shunned but celebrated & used as a foundation - as a tool belt if you will - to have on hand, leaving your imagination to run free & achieve the visual heights you are aiming for. Surely you would not expect a mechanic to fix a car without first knowing how to use a wrench? This foundation shines through in all of Chris Steele-Perkins work as his skill set is in place so that he can concentrate on the image at hand without hinderance. 

These skills come through beautifully when his work is paired up or grouped together, letting themes, compositional choices & contrasts bounce off each other. When I was planning which work to include from the huge plethora of images Chris has taken in Japan I began to start this pairing up & thinking about how the emphasis could be amplified in doing so. 

As you can see I did a long list then physically narrowed it down with scaled images. I also noted if it was a landscape or portrait format, the themes which arose & from that set about giving a balanced overview of the work showing Japan & all its delightful contradictions. 

©Chris Steele-Perkins images taken to give an idea 
of the hang only - colours not true to life.

The hang rises & falls with works at differing heights to draw the eye up, down, make you stand back or lean in closer. If an audience has to work a little bit the experience is much more engaging. It is easy to to see bad curt ion but good curation takes a lot of thought. It should go unnoticed by the untrained eye & be enjoyable for the visitor. Sometimes too clever is just that & leaves the viewer cold & non the wiser for it. I aim to see people leave a show more informed than when they arrived. As a result I also benefit from their perceptive comments & ideas about the show which I can use for later exhibits.  

Architecture, landscape, old & new , people, tradition, Western influences, leisure, Fuji, people of all ages, absurdity, pop culture, spiritual, comic & serene. This was the ample pallet I had to play with. 

The same beautiful shapes appear in both rural & urban landscapes. I was thrilled by the response to this work. It shows a maturity of gaze, taken over a long period of time, un-rushed, thorough & considered. It is far too tempting to try & finish a project before you are truly complete by setting a strict timeline. Some things build up over years. With this show 16 years of visits to Japan are present. As Chris returns to Japan over the coming I'm sure it will continue to be a joy to photograph. He will keep doing many other projects, yet Japan will continue to be an inspiration. Come & see what you think.

Japan Suite by Chris Steele-Perkins is currently displayed at L A Noble Gallery till 1 Feb 2014. For more info go to this linkLink to Japan 400 here also.

Signed copies of FUJI are available at the gallery for £35 
(The book is out of print)

Also I must mention the great Miranda Gavin & her delectable blog The Roaming Eye which featured the gallery & upcoming competition & current show. This is a great plethora of info in one place & well work a peek!