Bonnington Gallery

The act of looking is multi-faceted. There is always a temptation to ask what was, especially if there is a historical or life context for what is seen, or if the setting provides sufficient stimuli for the inquisitive mind to wonder ‘what happened here?’ Time is stopped for a moment, the nature of the frozen image as a moment seized in time, recorded for posterity, begins a debate around considerations of what occurred within and around the artists viewfinder.

We are presented with two works that, on the surface have little or no connection, their disparity seemingly the object for discussion, separated from the rest of the show and collectively titled ‘Essential Preconception.’ Their interplay is based on the act of looking, and questioning what is seen. This reliance on our perception of these disparities to begin to form our own interpretation of what the inherent connections and consequences of a train of thought may unveil is a bold step towards creating a new and fictional exegesis of what is seen. It is through this process that these seemingly unconnected pieces begin to work as one, comprehensive enquiry. This is not collaboration, but a curated connection.

Aaron Juneau’s ‘Saturday 28th April’ is a photographic record of a found object recovered whilst researching for other work. The object is a deceased Kestrel, pictured lying on a white sheet. This isolation of the object from its habitat creates a removal for the viewer from an understanding the context of the find; the nature of the bird as dead adds a morbid twist, yet emphasises ideas of time and possibility within the photographic ideal. Whereas it could be viewed with a sublimic ‘American Beauty’ romanticism in mind, is this image the result of the artist encountering a scene which impacts his practise, or a more dour record of ephemeric research? Whichever is the case, questions of what this kestrel experienced are raised and the specimen is raised from triviality to significance, through its death and discovery it has become far more interesting.

Helen Perkins’ ‘Talking Telescope’ is also a photograph, this time of a sign advertising a talking telescope. These penny-pinching tourist ‘attractions’ provide a service, that of describing the scene you are observing through the lens. Its location is unclear, however it is obviously a hastily taken snapshot of a moment. The sign is displayed on railings suggesting, perhaps, a seaside location, although this is pure speculation. This is no matter, however, for it seems that it is the suggestion of the telescopes use and ability that is shown here. We are looking at a symbol of the telescope rather than the telescope itself, a lure, and an offer of a possibility.

The telescope is a tool for the voyeur, it is an innocent plaything on one hand, the talking status suggesting that you are guided in your viewing, perhaps over a scenic coastline or a place of historical significance. It is a guided tour for those who like to look from afar, much like the kestrel with its powerful long-range vision developed to allow it to spot prey from altitude. This act of looking, over a distance, through a lens which enlarges what is seen becomes synonymous with the photograph itself; a presentation of a location, far away, enlarged and shown to an interested viewer. This is an objectification of a passive object.

These two works combine to communicate an essence of this objectification. On the one hand the sign is already objectified as something with a purpose. The kestrel, on the other hand, is reduced to an object to be looked at. The notion of considering an historical landscape through the telescope sits with a questioning of the reasons for the kestrels demise. Our removal from both of these, however, reflects the character of the voyeur onto us as we gaze and wonder. There is a loss of freedom in both instances, the kestrels death inhibits its ability to fly freely, an oft used symbol of those considering themselves held back by circumstance, the telescope dictates your viewing instead of allowing you to observe what is most interesting to yourself. It could be argued conversely though, that death brings a new freedom, and that learning broadens horizons to further investigation.

Either photograph can thus be considered positively or negatively, depending on your preconception. It is this innate opinion held personally by each viewer that will form an interpretation of each artwork, and the entire show. Our approach as a viewer is demonstrated and as such the artwork questions our own approach to itself. How do you view this artefact? There is no right or wrong interpretation therein, instead a gift of freedom to look and consider, the work reflecting itself back onto you and questioning deeper seated ideas and ideals within.

Fictions, curated by Hugh Dichmont and Fay Nicolson, also featuring work by Eugenia Ivanissevich, Glen Jamieson & Aaron Juneau (Collaboration),
Girolamo Marri, Helen Perkins and Marianna Simnett.

Bonnington Gallery, Nottingham