South Hill Park Arts Centre

The latest artistic offering from South Hill Park, the busy Berkshire based arts centre, is a photographic infusion of artists from Nordic countries. Dis/Connected sets out to explore whether myth and legend are subjects that have long been banished to the past, whilst simultaneously exploring life, death and the unseen elements in-between.

The first thing that’s striking about the exhibition is how deliciously depressing some pieces are. Mailund by Una Hamilton Helle is the representational picture for the exhibition and it does its job of intriguing the audience. Una’s work is strongly influenced by the Norwegian climate of short dark days and long, intrusive nights. This results in somber pieces, devoid of time, location and most importantly human presence. In fact her pieces so strongly suggest human absence that she leaves us asking where the people previously occupying these spaces are. Only the melancholy mood of the work suggests a depressing and disturbing answer.

Not all the work has such tragic overtones as Finnish artist Kalle Katalia uses his native landscape to create a much more spiritually uplifting style. He is quoted as saying “I wish to express the possibilities offered by landscape to immerse oneself in the sensation of a larger presence created by its magnitude and space.” And even likens the sensation to praying. In a way Katalia’s work is something of a modern day Friedrich, with one lone viewer standing surveying the breathtaking scene before them, whilst the horizon strays into the distance. Katalia’s work makes the viewer question their own connection to the world, and it’s vastness. In a sense it is a modern day re-telling of man vs. nature, done through the medium of photography with a wholly aesthetically pleasing result.

As a whole the entire exhibition has almost an adult whimsical-ness to it and whilst glancing through the frames, the viewer finds themselves in undefined spaces and times. The artists play with tricks on the viewer using locations and costumes. Sometimes, in the case of Natasha Nelson, you feel yourself looking in on a fairytale whilst other times there is the sense that you’ve burst in on a private moment or just as an intriguing, mythical tale is in the middle of being told. As always when something we know to be fake or rather, made up is presented to us, it automatically brings up the question of reality itself, and that is true of this work too. By presenting these scenes that are devoid of time and space the artists in Dis/Connected force us to examine our own time and space and how we exist within it. Therefore what began as possibly a piece about a fairytale suddenly becomes very bedded in the here and now.

The entire mood of the exhibition is set out from the start with the most risqué pieces at what is simultaneously the entrance to the exhibition and a busy pathway used by many visitors. At this point, Lena Modigh’s pieces of human insecurity hang boldly for all those to see, including a close up shot of a ladies thighs and buttocks, covered only by a bathing suit. Again the viewer is forced to look and see themselves in the pictures, their own insecurities and doubts.

Intriguing, thought provoking and sometimes playful Dis/Connected allows the viewer to explore undefined spaces, even worlds, in an attempt to examine their own mortality.

Running until the 11th November, Dis/Connected is curated by Dr. Outi Remes and Natasha Nelson.