20.10.05

Mark Power exhibition

A system of edges. Call me old fashioned, but I'm still not sure about exhibitions of photographs in art galleries. Books is where they should be IMHO. One of the great charms of the recent Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh was seeing his original photos, in various shapes and sizes (mostly small) and tints, alongside the magazines they were reproduced in. The accompanying new prints next door with their uniform large formats and tonal range, looked sterile in comparison. Mark Power's exhibition at the University of Brighton Gallery is a set of photos taken just off the map, one for each of the pages that fringe the edge of the A-Z Atlas of London. He's a bit of a completist - he sets himself an arbitrary systematic task, and when it is complete, like a stamp collection, so is the artwork - a past project was to document all the areas mentioned in the BBC shipping forecasts. The pictures themselves show often quirky bits of suburbia, unpeopled, and though cleverly composed lacking the wit of fellow Magnum photographer Martin Parr. As a piece of conceptual art, obvious comparisons include 'The Great Bear' by Simon Patterson, which takes Frank Pick's schematic underground map of London, with each station a 'star' be it a philosopher, footballer, scientist or actor. The A-Z atlas was covered coincidentally this week by Map Man (BBC2) Nicholas Crane, who investigated some of the spoof streets they include to protect their copyright. The underground map was covered in the last series of Map Man. (Incidentally, I once worked with Nick Crane many years ago at an architects in Gomshall called Hutton + Rostron.) The A-Z is undoubtedly an icon of London (a 2D colour-coded schematic with widened streets, flat green spaces and little else). But I do think it a little London-centric in an Iain Sinclair psychogeography sort of way, to say a trip beyond the limits of the map is 'a journey into the unknown'. Powers lives in Brighton, for goodness sake, and was born in Harpenden. But maybe it's the artspeak-bollocks-writing curator to blame? The photos themselves are OKish and some would make good postcards, though Caravan Gallery do it much better! I'd just like to see a little more effort - drawing or painting the suburbs, perhaps, like George Shaw, seen last week in the excellent The Secret of Drawing series, also on BBC2, who meticulously draws, from photos, banal suburban scenes around Nottingham nooneelse would think of recording. Don't get me wrong, I love photography, and I don't want to diss a fellow Brighton immigrant, especially now he's a Prof at Brighton university, but photography just seems too easy. Let's have some real painting and drawing on show for a change, after all there's even some (by Gillian Carnegie) in the Turner Prize this year!
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