Noemie Goudal: The Photographers Gallery

Seven large-scale photographic images dominate the top floor of The Photographers Gallery, making a bold impression by Noemie Goudal in her first solo London exhibition. All seven works on display in ‘Southern Light Stations’ are entirely new, previously unseen pieces created this year. As soon as you enter the Gallery you can’t help but notice the floor to ceiling observatory-style architectural structure which houses six glass stereoscopes. These cleverly display pairs of separate cloud images, creating a single three-dimensional image by depicting left-eye and right-eye views of the same scene. Clouds and the sky prove to be a recurring theme in Goudal’s work and indeed this exhibition as four of the large-scale photographic images show spherical objects (which could be the sun, moon, planets or other celestial bodies) floating above different landscapes including the sea, mountains, a desert/sand, and a beach/pebbly surface. After closer inspection you can also see ropes, scaffolding and other signs of construction around the spheres, alluding to the artists’ interest and research into early astronomy from antiquity, through to the Middle Ages and pre-Enlightenment. These spheres are accompanied by three photographic images of large-scale telescopic structures suspended above water; these ‘Towers’ are mythical, otherworldly and not dissimilar to some of the concrete structures that survive across Eastern Europe following the collapse of communism – and highlight Goudal’s desire to play with the real versus the imagined. The exhibition also plays with darkness and light as two of the spheres are very dark (perhaps referencing an eclipse) whilst the other two are incredibly light and almost merge into the clouds they are floating in. The fact that there is no interpretive information inside the exhibition space forces visitors to really look at the images, think about what they are viewing and question exactly what they may or may not be.

Stereoscope
One of the six stereoscopes
Oxford Street
View of nearby Oxford Street in the autumn sunshine

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Alice Anderson: The Wellcome Collection

Hidden behind an unassuming black door at The Wellcome Collection is Alice Anderson’s new ‘Memory Movement Memory Objects’ exhibition. It comprises one hundred sculptures of mundane, everyday objects covered (or as the artist describes “mummified”) in copper thread, transforming them into beautiful artworks. The introduction promises that visitors will “rediscover things you already thought you knew” and when confronted with a 1976 Ford Mustang semi covered in copper thread at the entrance of the exhibition, this certainly rings true! The curation is very simple and each of the five rooms is painted either dark black or bright white forcing the copper sculptures to pop out at you. There is very little signage or printed information which encourages you to really look at and engage with the objects, and try and guess what they are from a bicycle, to keys, a pipe, tennis racket, guitar, plasma television screen, basket-ball, telephone, stethoscope, ladder, ropes suspended from floor to ceiling and more. It is easy to dismiss the skill in these sculptures, and it is only when comparing Anderson’s pieces to the Ford Mustang which the public are invited to “mummify” that you appreciate the artists’ attention to detail and thought about how light will reflect off each sculpture. Covering the objects in copper tread also shifts your understanding of them from a design perspective, as all colour and detail is removed leaving just the outline and overall shape. There is more to this exhibition than shiny, pretty things however – and Anderson’s choice of the word “mummify” to describe her use of copper thread immediately brings archaeology to mind, and raises interesting questions about how we preserve the present, how we store memories today, and with social media on the increase sinisterly observes that “our memories might soon become disembodied and live exclusively online”.

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Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty: V&A

The V&A’s current blockbuster exhibition ‘Savage Beauty’ closes with Alexander Mc Queen’s own words;  I’m going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed were possible” which summarises what this exhibition has managed to achieve nicely. It is a lesson in how to take the museum visitor on a journey (when you’ve got a budget!) and immerse them in a world from Savage Beauty through to every form of Romantic (Gothic, Primitive, Nationalistic, Exotic and Natural), with a ‘Cabinet of fashion Curiosities’ and the designers vivid interpretation of Plato’s Atlantis thrown in for good measure. Each room not only showcases different collections but captures an entire mood; red, black, leather and lace from collections with evocative titles like ‘Nihilism’ and ‘Highland Rape’ immerse the visitor in Savage Beauty, a corridor of skulls and bones leads the visitor into a tribal space inhabited by mannequins with perspex tusks dressed in horse-hair and pony-skin with real crocodile heads used as shoulder pads, and expertly showcases a collection titled ‘It’s a Jungle Out There’, whilst futuristic silver horned mannequins on a white tile floor adorned with digitally created graphic prints and blaring techno music pay homage to Mc Queens last fully realised collection ‘Plato’s Atlantis’. The almost overwhelming double-height ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ focusses on the designers one-off pieces and with so many elaborate creations displayed side-by-side it is difficult for the visitor to know where to begin let alone maintain attention on one item without your eyes wondering. Clever use of Mc Queens own words to describe his collections and mirrors allowing visitors to view his expert tailoring from every angle make it a poignant tribute of one the UK’S most visionary and rebellious talents – and I’d highly recommend  a visit!

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