I have chosen to present my contribution to the upcoming joint exhibition at the Oxo Gallery in London in a slightly unconventional way. The images themselves represent a continuing fascination with, and pursuit of, the elements of decay and degeneration. This time not in nature, but man made. More specifically an attempt to orchestrate a pleasing arrangement of shape, colour and texture from the oruwa catamarans used in the centuries old fishing trade in Sri Lanka.
My three weeks there in January passed mainly in a hammock. Pressure of work now dictates that when holidays come along, I no longer have the energy nor the inclination to dash around taking photos from dawn to dusk. However one constant has always been a lengthy trek along the beach at sunrise and sunset. Time to clear the mind, exercise the body and attempt to redress the calorific imbalance from the night before. It was during this comfortable and calmative plod that ideas for the project began to form.
Passing the timeless little fishing villages nestled along the coast one cannot help but be aware of the struggles of the traditional Sri Lankan fishermen. The extent to which their livelihood has been compromised has been well documented - not only by the 2004 tsunami, but also by competition from modern ocean trawlers. I was struck not only by the way the relentless degeneration of the traditional wooden catamarans reflected the reality of the economic struggle faced by their owners but also how their slow disintegration belied their sturdiness. A sturdiness echoed on the weather-beaten, yet resilient faces of the fishermen. Photographing peeling paint is nothing new of course. And so I have taken elements of my fascination with gold leaf and incorporated them into the abstract shapes on the rag paper in an attempt to contrast this slow degeneration with something more imperishable.
I have just finished exhibiting at the vibrant and welcoming MMX Gallery in New Cross. About as far removed from the sterile white cube-type space as is possible to imagine - its faded elegance and exfoliating walls afford it an edgy and contemporary energy that I find very pleasing. I am not alone in this - amongst friends who have visited and fellow photographers who have exhibited there before me, the flaking paintwork and plaster on the walls have generated almost as much attention as the artwork on display.
While marvelling at how this crumbling mortar made a wonderful backdrop to the artwork, it occurred to me that to mount my images on a similarly distressed substrate might echo the degeneration I was seeking to capture with my camera. After much deliberation I decided that aesthetically, financially and practically, sheet copper would offer the best solution and would also incorporate an inconstant and slowly eroding element into the frame.
All sounds rather convoluted now I write it down. As the deadline for the exhibition draws ever closer, I find myself haphazardly messing around with noxious chemicals in order that I might precipitate the corrosion of the gleaming metal while at the same time wondering why it is I feel compelled to push myself to the limit by taking such risks. As ever, time will tell. The exhibition opens on 11th April.
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