Wednesday, 22 January 2014


FLOWERS GALLERY, CORK ST, W1S 3LZ until February 22nd.
Architecture of Density #39 178 x 266cm (c) Michael Wolf, courtesy of Flowers Gallery
Michael Wolf's series Architecture of Density is being exhibited for the first time in large scale in London. The physical impact of standing in front of these huge photographs is something I was not prepared for. I am looking at a faithful representation of where some people live. There is no sky above nor earth beneath to wrap it into a context. I am engulfed by its beauty and weightlessness.  I am looking at an exquisite abstract

There is another surprise. The facades are not flat - some blocks project and protrude, others recede. The effect is three dimensional. When I saw these works I had just come from Tate Britain's exhibition Painting Now; five contemporary artists. Lucy McKenzie's witty and probing trompe d'oeil oil paintings of documents on pin boards are so convincing that I had to take time to be sure it was not a collage I was looking at. There's an illusion of folds here too. If you look along Wolf's work, as apposed to straight at it, you have to remind yourself that a photograph is a flat object.
Hong Kong's lack of lateral space has propelled it into building more sky scrapers over 150m than any other city in the world. Accompanying notes say that, unlike most documentary  photographs, 'these images are coolly detached from their subject and the photographer's presence behind the camera is barely perceptible'.
Architecture of Density #'75,147x122cm (c) Michael Wolf, courtesy of Flowers Gallery

While this is true, we glimpse people in this image through their T shirts, air conditioners, bird cages, mops and brooms. I found that I had  typed 'Architecture of Destiny' as the series title. It's an easy mistake to make. How far are we shaped by our environment? These home dwellers have creatively crafted their private needs to fit public space. As an anthropologist I would love to know of the clusters and fractures, the  patterns and traditions woven in these works.

But that, as they say. is another story.

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