Metamorphosis Hannah Whitaker, Ruth van Beek, Julie Cockburn
London, Kingsland Road

Hannah Whitaker, Ruth van Beek, Julie Cockburn

20 May - 27 June 2015


Defined as a process of transformation, Metamorphosis presents the work of three artists who explore the possibilities for evolution within the photographic medium.

Images are interfered with, fragmented, punctured, spliced and sewn - undergoing a compositional and physical change. The exhibition looks at their varied and expansive processes, from the 'in-camera' light based and systematic interventions of Hannah Whitaker, to the hybrid collage works of Ruth van Beek, and the embroidered and embellished found photography of Julie Cockburn. The artists are linked by their manipulative artistic strategies, their material experimentation, and by the sense of alchemic exploration that occurs in their photographs.

Hannah Whitaker employs a system of masking in her photographic works that interrupts the mechanical process of exposure. Whitaker's images are subjected to a process of layering moments in time and space - shooting through hand cut paper screens inserted into the camera, and with multiple exposures.

Set within the physical parameters of her 4x5 negatives, Whitaker constructs closed repetitious systems and geometric grids. The screens divide the space of the photograph into distinct pictorial frameworks - representation and abstraction, flatness and dimensionality, patterning and chance. These overlapping visual languages allow the photographs to operate within systems external to them, whether mathematical, musical, digital, or linguistic, granting the photographs agency beyond their status as formal configurations.

Ruth van Beek assembles photographic arrangements from her archive of found material, such as snapshots, old books and newspaper cuttings. Within the archive, images are constantly reordered and decontextualised, giving life to unexpected new combinations. Her tactile two-dimensional works reveal the intimate history of their construction, with visible cuts and folds, and a shifting awareness of scale and texture.

Employing the illusory motifs found in studio photography, such as plain backdrops, pedestals and shadows, van Beek's collages suggest the fusing of hidden realities beyond the façade of the photographic plane. Resembling mysterious archaeological discoveries or rare hybrid organisms, van Beek's creations take on credible new forms, with a life of their own.

Reassembling, stitching into and over-painting studio portraits from the 1940's and 1950's,Julie Cockburn transforms the heads and shoulders of the sitters. Concealing certain elements of the original, Cockburn's vivid woven embellishments reveal new imaginative possibilities, generating what has been described as a "counter-image" (Jonathan P Watts).

Using a cut and splice technique, Cockburn's fragmentation of the image is a powerful play on the illusion of representational space. She re-orders the composition of the photograph, without adding to or removing any of the original. Despite the precise nature of her interventions, her response is imaginative and internal, as Cockburn says: "making tangible the emotions that are invoked in me by the people or places in the found images."

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