Friday, 24 October 2014


 Ensemble diptych (part 1), pencil on paper. Courtesy Jerwood Drawing Prize and the artist. Photography Benjamin Cosmo Westoby
Pencil on paper, 22 x 27.5cm

What is it with group photographs? Why do we choose them? I have an image of my mother standing with doleful eyes among a row of pupils at a village school in Bedfordshire. It's the only picture I have of her as a child. Twenty years ago, when trippers landed at the Greek island of Symi, they were happily coralled into groups by the local photographer. The prints were hung on a line to dry, ready to buy before the return  journey.

The dellightful  and intriguing image above is Part One of a diptych of group formations of costumed figures assembled and ordered by the conventions of the school portrait. It’s familiar – yet refreshingly new. Susannah Douglas works mainly with drawing and site- specific collage. And she is doing so at a time when the utilitarian, mechanised and throwaway nature of photocopies contrasts with the legacy of the portrait and portraiture. Historically the latter have stood for wealth, durability and the unique. But what happens to consistency in a culture of easy reproduction when to cut, paste and copy is only two clicks away?

The artist has written eloquently about her working methods in the Jerwood Drawing Prize catalogue referenced below

60 Minutes' Silence by Gillian Wearing

I’m reminded that nearly 20 years ago another artist took a fresh look at group photographs. Gillian Wearing won the Turner Prize in 1997 with 60 minutes' silence, which looks like a photograph but is in fact a video of 26 police officers who agreed to stand absolutely still for an hour The Daily Telegraph's art critic Richard Dorment described ' how one officer succeeded in remaining near-motionless the whole time until told that time was up. He then "lets out a yelp of relief that you can hear all over the gallery. The moment is like a dam bursting. His final, cathartic, joyful cry is one of the great moments in the history of recent British art’. 

 You can download the catalogue here:

No comments:

Post a Comment