Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Exhibition - A Piece of My Mind

A Piece of my Mind- an exhibition by Katie Ell - is the latest collaboration by photographer Katie Ell and creative director Paul Alexandrou. This series of images documents the different words and messages people choose to have tattooed on their bodies. It was collected over a nine-month period and explores the power of language, the line between public and private and the apparent need to share what is on our mind. Katie Ell is a commercial photographer based in London and her work spans celebrity portraits, fashion and art projects. Paul Alexandrou is a writer and creative director whose background includes advertising, media and art. Katie Ell Photography 

This exhibition was on at Tapestry Frith Street London, a production studio which also exhibits creative work.Although again displayed in a bright environment with light walls I found the set up rather distracting, a photographic studio in use at the back, some images only viewable through the glass frontage and the seating arrangement inside with clients turning up and discussing business around you...still I guess that is the downside of choosing an operational media business to stage an exhibition. The young lady on reception couldn't tell me much about the photographer but did direct me to the useful newspaper handout which described itself as "The body as a book" by Tom Ryling. The downside to the 'book' is that it was printed on this cream newspaper style paper and I felt therefore you lost a lot of the impact of detail and colour of the tattoos.

I had seen the exhibition advertised online and was looking forward to seeing it but in some ways I felt let down. The emphasis was on skin being used as a story telling device, a visual record of the passing of time and that tattooed skin tells of a life lived within it; how tattoos act in a similar way to facebook and twitter;sharing with strangers an intimate part of our lives or thoughts.Ell says that a message tattooed on the body can disarm or provoke and therefore this, in its purist terms, is art as the didactic medium. (didactic meaning to teach/inform/instruct)

Therefore the 'book' is also disappointing due to the larger images being of models fully clothed, no tattoo on display (ok so that's where the private comes in but surely an exhibition of tattoos should show them?) or done as 'model' poses where the tattoos although visible are not the main subject? The exhibit photographs were small and crowded onto one page with the explanatory text missing.

The 10 images on display were close up and more concentration on the detail, but I felt something was lacking? I guess until you try and show this kind of work you don't know what obstacles there are, the plain white background the images were shot against mean no distractions but left me feeling that the tattoo had been other indications as to the personal circumstances or personality of the subject. The images on display had information next to them explaining the meanings behind the tattoo's (aCurator ) but I felt there was nothing new to see as far as lighting or poses was concerned and without the accompanying text the images did not convey the depth of attatchment to the words or phrases etched on the skin. It would be really interesting to know what other viewers thought rather than just reading reviews online.

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