Zarina Bhimji ‘World Without People’ – Whitechapel Gallery

February 11th 2012 (Images HOPEFULLY to follow)

Thanks to First Great Western and their inability to run trains when the weather is too cold for their drivers to get out of bed on time I arrived an hour late for this gallery visit, but I’m glad I persevered and did get there.  I missed the guided lecture from the gallery staff unfortunately but I don’t think that was detrimental to what I gained from the visit, which was very surprising to me as I’d put my name forward as a candidate but after looking at the images and film clip on-line I wasn’t all that convinced I’d made the right choice, how wrong I was.

The opening statement by the artist, “My work is not about the actual fact but about the echo they create, the marks, the gestures, and the sound.  This is what excites me.” Sums up what I felt when I’d completed the tour, seen the images and watched the films.

Upon entry you’re faced with two images from the ‘Seascapes’ series made from 1998 – 2011, which I have to admit did not really inspire me at all, but I think this may have been a deliberate ploy to mislead the visitor as the rest of the images in Hall 1 were from the ‘Love’ series from 1998 – 2006 and, as I recall, from her Turner Prize 2007 series.  The images are all excellent and deserved a lot more time and attention than I had to offer, but of all those there I picked out four that I thought were my favourites.

The first image is ‘Papari’.  The lovely tones and muted colours of presumably a store window covered in concrete reinforcing wire with a hypodermic syringe box containing dead/dried plant material with a strongly defined shadow from a tree made me feel the heat that was part of that day and the reflected light making me slit my eyes.

Image two is ‘Shadows and Disturbances’ from the Turner Prize 2007 series; an image of a dilapidated window and its shutters apparently hidden away in a corner with lots of other odd material around it.  The light falls shaped as a Stanley knife blade across the window and the textures make a gritty, poor quarter feel to the image.  This one is certainly about textures and feel.

The third one I chose is also from the Turner Prize 2007 series, ‘Illegal Sleep’;  A row of automatic, semi-automatic and bolt-action weapons lined up along a wall, shot to form a pattern and to me implying a never-ending cycle of violence in third world countries.

Finally, ‘Breathless Love’, from the Turner Prize 2007 series; I have to say this is my most favourite image from the whole exhibition, I could look at this image for hours and not be bored.  A scene across a tidal riverbed of several wooden boats under construction, which is picked up in her later film ‘Yellow Patch’.

There are two films to watch ‘Out of the Blue’ and ‘Yellow Patch’.  Both films last approximately 30 – 40 minutes and have no human characters in them, part of the ‘World Without People’ theme.  Normally I’d have said that such films would be entirely boring, but the time slipped by more quickly than I could have imagined and the soundtracks helped evoke the emotional interest to keep you watching and enthralled throughout.  Watching closely you can see that some of the images mounted in the exhibition halls have either been taken from these films or themselves have inspired sections of the films.

I found that the images were compelling and honest and although they show a side of two countries we don’t often wish to think about nonetheless, from my experience, are highly accurate, evocative of life as it is, the tastes, the smells, the sounds the feeling are all engendered.

Of all the exhibitions I’ve been to with the OCA, this one has been by far the most influential on me.  There is a combination of contemporary, pictorial and conventional photographic art that inspires me enormously.

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