Hundred Years Gallery: Object = Subject (until 9th October 2013)

In the picturesque backstreets of Hoxton lies The Hundred Years Gallery, E2, which is currently presenting 'Object = Subject', a snapshot of an ongoing photography project by Australian artist, Sarah Leslie.

The setting for this limited-run exhibition is immediately eerie, as creaky wooden stairs lead you down to an icy cold room, (it was particularly haunting for me personally as I was alone) in which lies several lamps on the ground pointing towards pieces of cotton-rag photo paper. The exhibition catalogue informs us that Leslie's interest and line of research lies in the antithesis of using photography as a purely representative medium. As someone who is scientifically inept, it fascinates me to find an exhibition that supports the artist's work with a scientific or technological backdrop, and it is clear that Leslie is too striving for this connection which is often ignored.

Partnered with the atmospheric value of the space, the artist's use of analog photography instills a rooted theme of supposedly simplified technology. Presenting everyday sights in an alternative fashion, she makes her images fully accessible to her audience. Somewhat blurred or altered, images in the collection include teeth (x-ray style) and a disco ball. Such an incoherent sequence evokes a feeling of panic, which is heightened by the consistent lack of colour in the room and the dark, monotone feeling of solitude. The latter is expanded by the physical setting of the gallery, underground, small and, in the case of Leslie's exhibit, a confusing combination of light and darkness, which places emphasis on the black even with the addition of light. The feeling of the viewer being uncomfortable and 'overwhelmed' progresses with the uncomfortable maneuver, around the lamps in the middle of the floor.


The exhibit's catalogue expresses the artist and curator's hopes that 'Object = Subject' allows the audience to identify their own experiences, and possess their own take on the black and white images. After all, art is all about the individual's interpretation and what it can mean to us based on our own lives. Leslie also aims to provide her viewers with another perspective on the idea of photography's  'mimetic function', as already explained. Intriguingly, the catalogue also cites Richard Sennett, from his book, 'The Craftsman'. His idea of establishing 'a different part of the imaginative realm than retrospection' is interesting, as clearly black and white photography resonates the past, yet Leslie is devoting her work to the 'manipulation of light and shadow, space and time', as she declares. However there are many artists in the modern day who are showing us that analog, black and white photography is nowhere near obsolete.

As an exhibition, 'Object = Subject' is a puzzling, dark space with work that will challenge and confuse the viewer. In stark contrast to the fun, buzzing Hundred Years Café which sits above it, the exhibit is a worthwhile visit particularly for those interested in photography.

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