Away – Sharon Boothroyd & Tim Crooks

28th July 2012

Seven students and Sharon Boothroyd met at ‘The Jam Factory’ in Oxford about two hours prior to Sharon giving a talk and presentation of her joint exhibition with Tim Crooks at ‘Art Jericho’.  Several of the students were either new to OCA, new to study visits, or both and it was also nice to see regular, returning faces.  Sharon was telling us that she’d only been a tutor with OCA for about 3 months and this was her first solo study visit, so it was nice that there were sufficient numbers to make her feel welcome and not so many as to overwhelm.

Sharon

The ‘Group’ in full flow

The cafe discussion ranged across a wide range of photography related subjects led by Sharon and it gave everyone time to get to know one another and air their views on the various topics.

A walk of about a mile took us to Jericho and the gallery where Sharon introduced us to the curator, who very nicely provided tea and coffee immediately, whilst we wandered around what appeared to be a converted garage and had an initial view of the works.

The gallery has two distinct areas; a rather low ceilinged chamber as you walk into the gallery and a  much higher ceilinged, skylit chamber adjoining that at the rear.

View from rear of gallery to front entrance

Quite a few more members of the public joined us for Sharon’s presentation which overflowed the space and seating made available but didn’t detract from the view of the computer screen being used for demonstration of the images.

Sharon’s talk covered the work on view in the gallery and her other projects and particularly, ‘Edelweiss’  and ‘The Glass Between Us’.  There were a good number of questions at the end and Sharon patiently answered each at length.  I was very interested in her descriptions of how she researches each project, finds the scenes and actors/subjects to fulfil them, this was great as far as I was concerned as this area is something that isn’t discussed very much on TAoP.

It was interesting that for the work on display,  ‘If You Get Married Again, Will You Still Love Me?’, at the entrance end of the gallery, was entirely composed of ‘actors’ who posed Sharon’s interpretation of her research subjects words and were not professionals, but friends ‘roped’ in.  The sites where the images were made were also negotiated from business people who allowed her to use their premises freely, even when they were open for business!  It was quite revelatory that members of the public whom you may or may not know will quite willingly participate with an artist and help make the work possible.  Sharon did point out that she did get rejections, but no-one was rude when they rejected her requests.

The work is about the relationship between the separated/divorced father and his child, showing the emotional conflict between the subjects and themselves.  The actions and reactions of individuals involved in such cases clearly change and the emotions evinced are at times heartbreaking.  The series was sparked from Sharon’s viewing of a programme about separated fathers and their subsequent relationship with their children, which led her to consider what this would mean should it occur to her family.

Every image in the exhibition is untitled and leave the viewer to decide how to engage and explore them.  What is clear is that a very careful explanation was given to each subject before the shoot and extremely careful direction  was also employed as each scene evokes quite strong emotions in everyone I spoke to about what they saw.  Each emotion is something I think we’ve all experienced at some time or another ourselves and may well have seen these images in reality from our own children or grandchildren and this adds poignancy to each.

Meanwhile, at the skylit end of the gallery, Tim Crooks images from ‘Institution’ were hung but were, to my mind, unfortunately spoiled by the reflections from the lighting on the glass of the framing. Even though this distracted somewhat from the enjoyment of the images they are still very strong and moving.  It’s a sad reflection on society of the late 19th and early 20th century that institutions of this size were considered necessary to keep ‘the public safe’ from women who had children out-of-wedlock and unwanted and troublesome spouses.  That’s not to say we don’t need them today to keep the public safe from some of the mentally ill who’re released onto an unwary public to be ‘treated in the community’.

Images of abandoned building interiors are to me always sad; their former glory gone, the people who inhabited them moved on or passed away, the personal belongings left behind seem torn from their owners, and why were they?  This applies to all buildings and can a they all be documented in imagery before they disappear, and do we want or need to?  It could be said that all the military installations that were constructed between 1900 and 1950 have historical emotion attached to them and should be immortalised for future generation ‘lest we forget’, but there is a limit to this nostalgia and does the remainder constitute a worthwhile artistic heritage?  A limited number of scenes from various sites can form a great portfolio, but there are more than a few artists making this sort of work and is Tim Crooks work sufficiently different from the rest to be noteworthy.

The technical execution of his work is very good and the textures he’s captured are realistic in the extreme, but I’m not personally sure that they are that different overall from a lot of other good imagery of this sort to become a long-lasting memory for me.

I’m not convinced that these two works do fit together and I’d have preferred to see Sharon’s ‘The Glass Between Us’ instead of Tim Crooks, sorry Tim no offence.

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