12 Jul 2014

Raphael Preston: "Selfridges Oxford Street London 2014"

"Selfridges Oxford Street London 2014" by Raphael Preston.

"… their bodies were streaked … the dancing began ..."

Well, I haven't gone out dancing tonight (working too hard(!)) and I await the kick-off of the England World Cup match against Italy, so I have a spare hour to enjoy some writing!  And here it is! 

Raphael's graphic and dynamic account of window-shopping in London, invites the viewer to consider both the aesthetic and conceptual aspects of his photographic art-work.  How much of the colouration is due to photo-editing and how much it was part of the display, I cannot say.  However, the splattered paint seems too daring to be entirely the work of window dressers, even for a store such as Selfridges.  Therefore I will assume there is at least, some editing.

The artist leaves comments refering to dancing and a battle.  Conceptually, for me I can only conclude that Raphael intends to inform us about tribal dances and battles that are evoked by a shop display at a prestigious store in an affluent area of London.  So, Western cultures are aspiring to tribal cultures!   So much for the supremacy of the West, see Postmodern theory and globalisation/multiculturalism.  I also note the cyborgesque nature of the mannequins in the series of photos.  Photographers and artists who regularly reference mannequins are not only refering to the dehumanizing nature of capitalism, but the condition of "fluid indentities" and "fractured subjectivities", that we currently experience in the West.  Particularly in large cities. 

Well, England are kicking off soon, so after writing about the conceptual evocations of the work (and the series) I will briefly touch on the the aesthetic relevance of the work.

Like an automatic post-painterly, post-modern painting, dripping with haptic, layers of abstraction this photographic "accident" (art-concrete or "found objects"(?)) is a great example of contemporary, visual art.  I resist using the term "avant-garde" because it is debatable whether there is such a thing anymore, perhaps "cutting edge" is less rigorous but more relevant?  
Of course, these are my critical murmerings and they may not be what the photographic artist meant at all!  I reckon I've touched upon some salient sentiments, but the artist knows best what his intentions were!  I forgot to mention musicality; the energy and colour suggest a musical sensibility, but England are just about to kick off!  So I'll leave you to consider this and I'll be off to watch the beautiful game....

Hello Simon,
very glad you enjoyed the series, and the "dance" context they triggered in my vision of them … many thanks also for your text and thoughts … You are welcome to put a link to your text on the photo itself should you wish too .. ? Anything encouraging discussion and reflections, is really great and very welcome …
To answer some of your questions, I do use curves to control Contrast and Tonality in my "developing", and I tend to sometimes favour high contrast. I see this moment as an emotional interpretation of my "negative". Apart from carrying out "repairs" of missing pixel, white holes, dust and so on, I don't manipulate or add to photos.
It's the surreal-ness of the reality I encounter that fascinates me, and the interaction taking place that I photograph.
The paint was actually everywhere, splattered onto the glass from the inside, and it made a Pollack look polite .. it's incredible, and a true work of "performance" art. Incredible beautiful energy, I thought.
I don't personally view mannequins in any special way, apart from a idealised sculptural representation of ourselves.
Of course the industrial production of objects that look like us, made us look at our biological reproduction from an industrial perspective. A la "Brave new world" … which I quote a lot on the "Collective and Impromptu" series.
But then any new technology makes us look at life anew through the prism of that technology.
Looking at a mannequin in the information age, is I guess different .. the discussion nowadays is not about cloning , but more about the information contained in the body image, the body shape, size and so on ..
For all the "compression of meaning" in the photos, and the "juxtaposition act" from the quotes, my wish is for the viewer to become aware of his involvement in what he see.
I hope i am also referencing the amazing amount of talent in this great city of ours, and I hope to celebrate and illustrate it's diversity, and dynamic, it's movements and social structures …
This project keeps me on looking, and I hope it will do the same to others ….
and yes, I was quite involved with music for many years ..

All the best.