Our Exhibitions Coordinater Jill Carruthers reviews our current exhibitions, featuring portraiture from Charles Fréger and manipulated imagery from Eva Stenram. The exhibitions finish on 26th August, so if you haven’t seen them already head to the gallery this week!
This exhibition was the first UK solo presentation of Charles’ work, displaying a wide breadth of some of his more recent works. Showing a total of 7 different bodies of work throughout the two ground floor galleries, the audience was presented with a very masculine representation of Charles’ photography.
Charles Fréger was selected to be one of the key artists for this year’s Look/13 Liverpool International Photography Festival for which the theme was exploring identity responding to the question ‘who do you think you are?’ Fréger is fascinated by sociology and masculine identity, which comes across strongly in the bodies of work that were on show in Open Eye Gallery. One of the most interesting topics that comes through in his work is the idea of the collective, the brotherhood and the bonds form through common ancestry and training. I particularly liked the connections that could be made between the Légionnaries series and the Rikishi - both displaying boys and men who had gone through and boy who were about to go though rigorous training and initiations in order to become part of the collective, earn the right to wear their insignia with pride and better themselves.
My personal favourite was the Wilder Mann series. This body of work looks at ‘tribal Europe’ and heavily explores European Folklore. The images themselves portray native Europeans performing rites wearing traditional costumes made from furs and foliage from the local landscape, in order to bring good fortune, prosperous farming and good weather to their family, farms and villages. Some of the costumes look utterly ridiculous and comical, others are quite terrifying and spooky. This body of work has been especially popular with our audience as the work is so accessible.
In the Upper Gallery Open Eye presented the work of Eva Stenram, which was also the first UK solo exhibition for the artist. I particularly liked Eva work the most and I thought the Upper Gallery lent itself well to the display of her work, with a more intimate atmosphere and darker grey walls, it had a completely difference feel to the large, bold and bright images by Charles in the ground floor galleries. The nature of Eva’s practice is to work with photography instead of actually taking the photographs herself, and for this body of work she used found negatives and centrefolds from 50s and 60s porn magazines. Instead of the exhibition being a display of seductive, semi-naked women, Eva has cleverly negated the main object of the images by digitally manipulating the curtains or drapes that form the backdrop for the images, and used them to cover the women in the image, leaving only a bare leg or arm to suggest the figure underneath.
What I particularly like about this work is you can’t really appreciate it unless the process is explained to you – which may not be ideal for an un-invigilated space – but somehow it adds to the playfulness of the images, almost as though Eva only allows a privileged few to understand the true meaning behind her work.