The Broken Pastoral | David George

 

Friday 29th September – Friday 17th November 2017

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Artist Talk

David George will speak about his practice, and the exhibition at Sid Motion Gallery on Thursday 2nd November 2017, at 6pm.
To reserve a place, RSVP to info@sidmotiongallery.co.uk

 

David George is a British photographer who has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions internationally. He is currently preparing for the group exhibition LONDON BY NIGHT at The Museum of London, curated by Anne Sparham opening in 2018.
Previous solo exhibitions have included ELSEWHERE at PECKHAM 24, London, 2017, and EXTRAVAGANT at Minerva House, London, which is currently on view.
Recent group exhibitions of the last few years have included UNCERTAIN STATES ANNUAL SHOW, The Arts Pavillion, London, 2016 & 2015; AFTER LONDON, Bank Gallery, London, curated by Michael Upton, 2016; LEGEND OF THE EAST END, curated by Zelda Cheatle, 2015; FOYLE FOUNDATION, Four Corners, London, 2015 and OXFORD HOUSE, London, curated by Francesca Wilkins, 2015.

David George’s work has been included in The Observer, Photomonitor, The Evening StandardBritish Journal of Photography and The Sunday Times Magazine, as well as publications including ARCHIVE, IMAGINING THE EAST END, published by Black Dog in 2013. David George’s monograph HACKNEY BY NIGHTwas published by Hoxton Mini Press in 2015.

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The Broken Pastoral

This exhibition is the culmination of ten years work and at its heart contains two interconnected strands of thought and practice. The first is tasked with transposing ideas and themes of western classical art (sublime, romantic, uncanny and melancholic) onto contemporary British landscape photography. The second strand aims to document these man-altered landscapes with a more romantic representation, a representation that is at odds with the dominant school of thought presently surrounding contemporary landscape photography.

Ideas pertaining to man altered landscape have been in the intellectual stranglehold of the New Topographic movement, since its inception in the early 1970’s, a movement that has both feet firmly placed in the classical (or Apollonian) school of thought. The New Topographics were originally an intellectual response to pictorialism in American landscape photography but in the intervening years they are to be seen as the only possible intellectual response to the new landscapes being engineered by changes in industry and population trends in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries.

Any aesthetic school is empirical and therefore subjective, so in effect, the romantic (or Dionian) school, has just as much intellectual validity for discussing modern topographies as the classical school and should have just as much traction in the theoretical and practical representation of contemporary landscape as the New Topographics. This small, but important argument was a major factor in the making of these landscape photographs

One of the main differences between the two aesthetics is that the New Topographics, to me at least, precursor the ideas contained within the work. They begin with the statement “this is…” (good, bad, indifferent etc.) whereas the romantic idea twists the precursor to “is this…?”

A minor tweak, but it creates an obverse within the reading of the images, turning the informative into the inquisitive thus giving the viewer more intellectual space when immersing themselves in the photographs.

To put my cards on the table, I am a big admirer of the work of the New Topographics, from their rigorous treatise to their high production values in print. They have done much of the groundwork that has enabled photography to gain its present standing in the fine art world today, but I believe there is room for much variation and dissent in any artistic medium. This dissent and dialogue is the very thing that keeps art healthy and fresh, good art should question everything and believe nothing, even of itself.

The exhibited photographs, because of the intentional inclusion of the elements nostalgia and romanticism, all fall within the jurisdiction of The Broken Pastoral, which is a distinctively modern, English cultural response to accelerating industrialisation and technological advances that have impacted on the English Landscape over the past century and a half.

This idea has appeared frequently in art forms during the twentieth century, (mainly in music) but I think can be applied to the visual arts with legitimacy and validity, The Broken Pastoral invariably references a longing for a return to a bygone era, one often associated with the countryside (or even a period of suburban plenty) while, at the same time acknowledging the impossibility of making a return to this idyll.

The impossibility occurs because that world has been disrupted and disfigured beyond repair by the advance of modernity, it’s homeostasis now reliant on the intervention of mankind. The acknowledgement of this impossibility is dependent on the idea of reflective rather than restorative nostalgia in the work. Restorative nostalgia being a fixation of a point in history that is somehow better than the present world we inhabit while reflective nostalgia is to be enamored by the historical distance between that point in time and the present.

There is also the argument that a return to a pastoral idyll is doubly impossible because the collective memory of these bucolic landscapes is, in part, a construct of an outdated, diminishing, class system that would prefer the world to return to a place where it was once a dominant force.

The broken pastoral, for my part, is ultimately not a lament for something lost but a celebration of what has been created. These new landscapes have their own charm and nuances, replacing the old pastoral vistas; all created by man’s intervention in the environment for eons, with new interventions and the creation of a new era in English Landscape. Paradoxically, these dystopian beauty spots invariably vacillate between the utilitarian and the sublime creating a cognitive dissonance within the work and, subsequently, the viewer.

Ultimately, no matter what an artist shows or writes about their practice, success is always dependent on the interaction between the work and its audience.

 

David George, 2017