Wednesday, 13 November 2013

44th Eastern Open Exhibition - Radiation Tester

The 44th Eastern Open is the largest Open competition held in the town each year and sees an entry in excess of 700, with 70 or so being selected.

The Arts Centre (Formerly The Guildhall) has three large exhibition spaces and they are all used to show the work in what is a bright airy environment complete with pop up cafe.

I went along twice. The first time I was taken aback by the diversity of the selection. Oils, acrylics, photography etc and the contrasting styles, shapes and sizes. The variation was reflected in the prices ranging from £110 to £10,000. Not being an artist in the generally accepted sense I  know little of how major items in oils or pen and ink are made but one thing was certain: this was all good quality.On this first visit I had not taken a notebook so didnt get any thoughts written down but I had noticed the work of photographer Mike Harding. As you can only enter three pieces he had done very well in getting three hung and had also won best in show and the £2000 prize.

The second visit was to take a closer look at "Radiation Tester", Mike Hardings winning photograph and another called "Mr and Mrs Williams". I have since been in contact with Mike and he has kindly allowed me to include a copy of Radiation Tester" below.

"Radiation Tester" is a 30" x 40" colour print with a simple cream matte mount and a natural wood coloured frame. The catalog doesn't say but I guess its a C type print. The image shows a simple T shaped pole with cross head in a large wilderness of unkempt grassland. Hanging from the two extremities of the cross head are two "fly catcher" like papers dangling in space.
The landscape format image is conventional in many ways. The horizon is one third up from the bottom and the T shape is almost in the centre. There is uniformity and the space around the T is perfectly sized to give the correct sense of space and scale. Even if the viewer had no knowledge of the title there is enough here to bring upon a sense of unease. There is a bleakness that is directed by the reduced gamut. The grass is a pale green, the other vegetation is dead, there is no soil only stone and the sky is an ominous grey. The use of shallow depth of field renders the distance out of focus but there is nothing to see, no buildings or fences and certainly no people or signs of where they have been. The light is flat with the overcast sky and once we read that the simple looking device is for testing radiation a coldness is felt of hidden danger.

Radiation Tester
 Copyright - Mike Harding - Salhouse - Norfolk


At a mixed media exhibition it was encouraging that photography had made it to the top and that is encouraging. It is without doubt that my work is currently no right for showing to selectors at such a show. Again I come back to my lack of conceptual imaging and my constant involvement with technique over content. Further reading and research will hopefully overcome this trait and allow my work to have more narrative and be conceptually braver. 

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