The Knoll - 16mm film and 35mm slide
Hidden Narratives @ Graves
By Sophie Allen
Read Sophie's review of the exhibition that looked to explore untold stories and hidden histories in contemporary art at Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield...
In contrast to much of the modern art that pushes its way into our collective consciousness, the work on display in Hidden Narratives, an exhibition that featured at the Graves Gallery throughout March 2008, discards bold, shocking statements in favour of understated images, where meaning is only implied and behind which lurk untold stories.
(c) Susan Hiller
Many of the pieces appeared deceptively simple, such as the photographs of snow-lined streets that make up Susan Hiller's 'J Street Project'. Yet, the street name seen in each photograph, Judenstrasse or Jews Street, hints at Germany's lost history and suggests that even the most undemanding of images can have hidden layers of meaning.
The pervading sense of absence in Hiller's work is also a key feature of Zarina Bhimji's 'Strange Domineering Tenderness', in which an antique chair was photographed from the viewpoint of a servant kneeling before his master. With neither servant nor master present to take their places, the close up of the empty chair is symbolic of declining power and reminds us of the narratives that lie behind everyday objects.
Kate Allen's specially commissioned work 'Battlefield With Upturned Tortoises' is concerned with how context affects our interpretations of events and images.
Her drawings of an upside down tortoises are based on the abandoned helmets left by surrendering Argentinean soldiers during the Falklands, but the vast swathes of blank paper where the background detail should be means we are never given the whole story. Allen’s tortoises seem both comic and touchingly vulnerable and make the viewer reconsider the original, highly emotive image.
In Shizuka Yokomizo's 'Stranger (8)' and 'Stranger (9)' the context is missing even for the artist herself. Her technique of writing to strangers asking them to stand at their front window at a certain time so that she could photograph them produces images that emphasise the distance between ourselves and other people.
Shizuka Yokomizo's Stranger (8)
Here, what the photograph can show us is limited to what can be seen through the window. We are offered intriguing glimpses of the room beyond, and of the inner life of the subject, but this is a world that neither we nor photographer can know.
Sophie Lascelles' 'Backwoods' combines a projected film of a figure on a swing with a paper installation that brings the film's landscape into the gallery space. Although the piece provides us with little obvious narrative, Lascelles creates a sense of mystery and ambiguity that draws the viewer in.
Although the short scene is on a continuous loop, there is a sense we never quite know what will happen next. The 3D installation is also reminiscent of a theatrical stage set, inviting viewers to look on and construct their own plot.
It is this freedom to create individual stories from the images in front of us that makes Hidden Narratives a fascinating, yet subtle exhibition.
last updated: 01/04/2008 at 13:54