This was a photography exhibition by two graduates of the OCA, John Umney and Keith Greenough, and a current student, Sarah-Jane Field, at Oxford House, Bethnal Green.
Oxford House was set up in 1884 as a residential settlement house where graduates and students of Keble College, Oxford, could stay and undertake voluntary work within the local community. Today, it acts as a community arts centre and building offering affordable office/room hire.
The three photographers explored the relationship between Keble College, the community use of the building and its relationship to other buildings within the local area.
For me, the most successful photographs were by John Umney, which depicted close-up, almost abstract images of Keble College. One which particularly caught my eye (Keble 4) was a close-up of a lectern, which showed the marks and textures of continuous use; in between two raised panels of the lectern (which was a gold colour) was a recess which had an interesting long black mark which me reminded me of a cityscape. I also was drawn to Keble 6, which showed a chevron pattern of a worn tiled floor. Both these images really brought to the fore the patterns/textures created by years of use and made me wonder about the countless people who had used these surfaces.
Of Keith Greenough’s images, St John’s 1, a photograph of a statute at the bottom of a stairway and Library 2, showing an internal view of Bethnal Green library caught my eye. The former, for the placement of a modern statute at the bottom of a bare and decaying stairway; the latter, for the juxtaposition of modern technology against a victorian ornate wooden front reception area.
Sarah-Janes’ images were dramatically lit and showed a single ballet dancer within the rooms of Oxford House. I particularly enjoyed the images of the close-up of the feet, the hands of the dancer and the dark almost black backgrounds in the other images. Personally, I found it difficult to connect the images and the artist statement which accompanied them, particularly around the influence of the industrial revolution, the increasing role of technology and future teaching practice. In many ways this highlighted for me the role of the artist statement. I read the artist’s statement before viewing the images and this set-up, consciously or subconsciously, an expectation. When I was not able to perceive the intent of the artist in viewing the images, this made them for me less successful. Others of course, will be able to link the images better than I with the statement. Something for me to think about as I progress in my studies and reach the stage of writing an artist statement for my own work.
Link: Exhibition Home page