19 – 29 July 2022, The Stade Hall, Hastings.
Organiser: Chris Coombes and Photopia
Photopia is comprised of 14 artists from the main PhotoHastings (PH) group of over 50 members. The Stade Hall’s venue is sited in a prime location in Hastings Old Town and next to Hastings Contemporary Art Gallery. However, it is difficult to hang a visual exhibition effectively in the vast cavernous interior surrounded by heavy brown walls, this coupled with organising an exhibition of 14 photographers without a common theme to follow and an undefined idea of diversity and unity, is challenging. Thus, Chris Coombes, the organiser of “All Together, We Are Different” explained that the exhibition is intended to be different. Without a selection process, the artists were given complete freedom to interpret the title, the resultant exhibition straddling the fine line between un-curated and proudly diverse.
There were a few artists at the exhibition that stood out for me, the first is Imogen Bloor whose two iPhone images were necessarily printed small scale but are visually strong through their abstracted formal structure. Entitled “From the River to the Sea”, her landscape is presented by horizontal lineage that connected the land, to the river, to the sea and to the sky, in bold block colours that stand out amongst the rest of the busy exhibition. Simple but effective and engaging. I would have liked to have seen these two images enlarged to draw the viewer into the landscape.
Louise Whitham’s “Exquisite Photosynthesis” images, addressing the issue of climate warming, also stand out for contrasted reasons. Her delicately produced abstracted pictures combine a busy composition of reflections, broken glass, flowers, and mysterious interiors. The immediate connection to climate change is unclear to me, but focusses my attention, and she has added complex chemical formulas in her labelling which are “favourite equations for life”. The multi-layered triptych series is alluring and draws the eye.
It is encouraging to see that the black and white medium has become popular, especially amongst professional photographers, such as Rod Morris and Derek Cottrell with their exquisitely printed black and white images, and the manipulation of ambient light to pick out sublime perspectives of shadow, form and structure.
Being in Hastings, many of the artists have focussed their attention on local sea views and activities. Clare Hocter’s chosen location of Dungeness has been covered by many artists, photographers and film makers. Its unique atmosphere of bleakness, menace and beauty is irresistible to image makers, and Clare’s image “Connections” projects this view in her picture of a single house/shed fully lit inside but standing alone in the dark landscape. I admire her short but precise quotation from Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well”. Artists often attempt to label their work with lengthy wordy descriptions and obscure personal reasons behind their work, whereas a short concise text or quotation would be much more effective.
Altogether, the exhibition is a bold and engaging presentation in a difficult venue, with a well-presented catalogue, and Chris Coombes deserves praise for organising this event which heralds the main PH festival forthcoming in Autumn.