Cold War

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A film so beautiful I can’t stop playing it over in my head. A Polish drama directed by Paweł Pawlikowski telling the story of a love affair spanning the lives of two quite unfortunate beings. The pianist and composer, Wiktor Warski, casts a young mysterious  Zuzanna “Zula” Lichoń, in the folk performance he has written along with his partner. Their lives change dramatically and the lovely ebb and flow of watching it all is hypnotic. Several scenes stick out; Zula floating along on her back in a river singing – haunting and beautiful. The scene pictured above, a large mirror reflecting the room back to us whilst three characters stand watching the celebrations unfurl. Both of our protagonists embracing on a boat sailing down the Seine at night – the camera looks up at trees and Notre Dame, passes couples on benches and carries you the viewer. Perfectly depicting heady, euphoric nights. Really, very good acting and beautiful cinematography. Watch it, watch it now.

 

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Loveless

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I would recommend watching Loveless. A film that has been recently released here, written and directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev.

Showing the relationship of a couple in a strange limbo, not yet divorced and tied together by their son and the social stigma of separation. Neither are likeable, in fact I haven’t seen a film in so long where I have thoroughly despised both leads. Their son goes missing after hearing a particularly brutal argument. It keeps you engaged with the pure desperate hope their son will be found or actually that he won’t. Realising that maybe his life is better without them.

The cinematography is captivating. My favourite scene features the father and the lead of the search party, Ivan. They feel like they should be the same thing, the search party lead is so driven and focused on looking for the boy it highlights the resigned, blank nature of the father. They are searching a high-rise block of flats, going floor to floor with a torch. This is shot from a neighbouring building across the gap. Snow is swirling down and the torch is the only source of light. A beautifully composed shot that only highlights the hopelessness of the father.

It is rare to watch something where you hate nearly all of the characters but are so engaged you can’t look away. It is bleak, infuriating and cold but I can’t recommend it enough.

Telfer

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Terry & Gina in ‘The Buccaneer’

It was refreshing to hear from a photographer who believes in-camera shooting is the priority.

Visiting Alex Telfer’s studio was rather surreal. Inside the converted church there was  a quiet that cannot be replicated outside a building not made for that purpose. With vast rooms and high ceilings, he has built himself a perfect place to work and play.

Creativity is at the root of his approach. It was nice not to be bogged down in technical jargon and meet someone who could articulate his feelings about an image.

Alex has a large, varied collection of work. He presented a slideshow of 70+ frames, a mixture of personal and commercial. He talked of the circumstance; how he got the job, the conversations he had on set and any difficulties faced on a shoot. That was another element that stood out, his ability to talk. Not in a condescending or monotonous way, he was able to communicate clearly and engaged the room. It is easy to see how he could be welcomed into the folds of wary communities as shown in the image above. “Terry and Gina in The Buccaneer” is from a personal project called “The Travellers” documenting the life of Travelling folk who attend The Appleby Horse Fair. The project was subsequently commissioned and published by The Sunday Times Magazine.

It was surprising and enjoyable seeing such a body of work presented by someone who enjoys the process.

Film Fetishist

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A great film is playing daily at the Tyneside Cinema until 25th February.

Mirer is filmed entirely on 16mm, it shows with great cinematic expression the Arriflex 416 Plus.

A film by Gethin Wyn Jones, Northumbria University Graduate Artist in Residence . It is something really beautiful.

Mike Chat

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Something was clear early on, Mike Baister loves what he does and he also loves to chat. Listening to his career journey, it was interesting to hear he started his formal photography education at Newcastle College. He recalls his fellow students as being cagey and private with their ideas, a stark contrast to Sunderland University where he completed his studies in the Fine Art department. They shouted their thoughts from the roof. This, he says, is part of the secret. If you give away all of your ideas, you have to think of something else. Something better.

Communication, versatility and patience are the three main qualities it appears you must possess in order to do well in the business of commercial photography. He regaled us with stories of numerous jobs. He also reminds the class to always shoot for themselves. Once you have the shot you have been paid for, see how much more you can get for yourself. You might as well whilst all the equipment is unpacked and the scene is set up.

Something I found interesting about the talk was the method in which he communicates with potential clients online. Sending out a photo of the month, almost like a calling card. Reminding people he is there without overloading them. An opportunity to show both his creativity and humour.

 

Dystans

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All that was previously known about this exhibition was that the photographer was the winner of the Michael Ormerod Travel Photography competition. Deciding first to look at the images and then read the text, it was easy to make your way around the room.

The space itself does not provide a great exhibition area during the day. Skylights letting in way too much direct sun, it is almost impossible to get a good look at the images. Ducking down to avoid reflections you can almost get an idea of the photograph. Once the sun disappears I am sure the room transforms; although the thought of looking at images under fluorescent strip lights isn’t appealing either.

Subjects fill the frame. Tightly squeezed in hands and wrinkled expressions. It feels painful and sad. Something is wrong throughout, a displacement or unknowing. The faded family photographs hint to times past and people out of reach. An extremely close shot of a post surgery body brings the feeling up to a boil. The tones are muted and quiet.

My favourite image turns out to be the poster too. Tying into the themes of unknowing, a woman’s face is completely obscured by smoke. Her slouched frame is backlit by bright natural light. It reminds me of seeing dinner ladies on a tab break, a weariness that can’t be spoken. It is beautifully composed, a moment that couldn’t be recreated. It relays the atmosphere, or how I imagine that to be.

Once reading the text it is apparent the photographer has travelled to meet physically distant family and photograph their lives. “I want you to keep looking at them and maybe then you’ll discover that everyone is living their own battle.” – Sonia, Photographer.” An interesting sentiment delivered through the text, expressing personal family pain. I am glad to have gathered my own thoughts of the images before reading the intentions of the author.

Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! 

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Held in Bristol’s Arnolfini gallery, running from 27th September to 24th December 2017. A packed gallery space in the early afternoon of Saturday. So many visitors there was little room to get near the pieces, never mind study them. People drifting in and out; hanging around long enough gave the opportunity to sneak closer. A varied body of work, tapestry, ceramic, sculpture. All bold and intricate. Loud and heavy.

My first visit to the gallery, a high-ceilinged, clean and beautiful building. The space lent itself to the exhibition well. Allowing a steady flow of observers to climb the stairs and linger.

The amount of work on display felt almost overwhelming. Not in an anxiety inducing way; more the feeling of standing in front of a really great wedding buffet. So much to see and absorb. My favourite piece, Death of a Working Hero, was in the first room directly on the left. The busiest space by far it required a second look.

“Death of a Working Hero was inspired by the ceremony of the blessing of the banners in Durham Cathedral. This moving ritual is part of the annual Durham Miners’ Gala where trade-union banners are paraded through the streets accompanied by brass bands. The blessing in the glorious setting of the cathedral accompanied by mournful music seemed to me to be a funeral for a certain sort of man.” Grayson Perry.

Perhaps a Northern bias created by being born in an area once rich in industrial power, slowly stripped throughout the years. Still feeling surrounded by a mourning of what once was and a city rebuilding. The landscape was familiar and personal. The perspective made me think of LS Lowry, intricate windows and church spires. An image made of many layers, each individually considered and built upon. The tapestry itself is rich in colour and skill. Heavy and beautiful. Mournful expressions and sharp cheekbones.

Regardless of my geographic upbringing I think this piece carries weight. Fitting the style of the banners the scene is sad but strong. A refusal to stand down.

A full on, unapologetic display of work executed beautifully. Try to catch it on a quiet day and spend the afternoon.

“A time to fight. A time to talk. A time to change. We work for the future and grieve for the past.”

 

Käthe Kollwitz: Portrait of the Artist

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Segments of a review written by Skye Sherwin for The Guardian. The review was published online on 17th September 2017, the exhibition ran at Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery.

“The picture’s edges press in on its subjects like the mother’s despair. Four different versions form a crescendo of anguish in the final room of Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery, the awful tableaux repeated with varying background tints and denser shadows. I want to make a joke, to relieve this awkward lump in my throat, but there is no room for jokes in Kollwitz.”

“…Kollwitz responded to some of the 20th century’s major upheavals, her sensibility doesn’t quite chime with our own. There is none of the absurdity that lifts Goya’s or Picasso’s takes on old age and war. Her campaigning vision is a black tunnel of mourning.”

“While her son’s end meant her later output was driven by guilt and grief, death was her lifelong creative companion, frequently tearing her work in opposite directions, a thing of arbitrary cruelty and sensual appeal. Its push and pull is given a full-blooded, ghoulish literalism in 1910’s Death and Woman, a creepy gothic threesome where a voluptuous naked mother struggles, apparently in ecstasy, between a skeleton and a baby.”