Free Thinking

My appearances for Radio 3 Free Thinking are now available to download from the BBC website. Ahead of the re-release of Peter Watkins' 1974 biography of the artist Edvard Munch, I looked at how Munch's biography relates to his art (and why Strindberg threatened to kill him). You can hear my thoughts here, or alternatively... Continue Reading →


Review: ‘Burden of Proof’

Review of ‘Burden of Proof’, a forensic photography exhibition which ran at the Photographers’ Gallery in London.

The Oxford Culture Review

‘A photograph’, wrote Salman Rushdie, ‘is a moral decision taken in one eighth of a second.’ As soon as you press your finger to the shutter, the story begins — everything that falls outside the frame matters as much as what you include. I’ve never been more acutely aware of this than in the timely ‘Burden of Proof’ photography exhibition, currently running at the Photographers’ Gallery in London. Presenting a history of forensic photography from the early 1900s to the present day, the exhibition throws into sharp relief the vital role of the photographer in the justice process. In one corner, we see an image of a group of young men, talking as they share cigarettes. In the next picture along, the cameraman’s perspective has changed. The group now face away from the viewer; it becomes apparent that they are smoking before a pile of corpses. Are these men friends?…

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Review: Is Art Civilised?

Review of art talk ‘Is Art Civilised’, by Guardian critic Jonathan Jones.

The Oxford Culture Review

The role that art and culture play in society seems a particularly pertinent question at present. Last fortnight, Minister for Schools Nick Gibb announced that the EBacc is set to become compulsory in secondary schools, a qualification that includes English, Maths, Sciences, History or Geography, and a Language. The performing arts are conspicuously absent, not being ‘sufficiently important to justify reducing the time available for the existing subjects in the curriculum’, according to Gibb.

This is quite a different perspective to the one offered yesterday evening by Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones. Speaking at the MCS Arts Festival, he argued that the creation of art — and the study of it — is a prerequisite for a civilised society. In a talk that spanned artworks from the Renaissance to the 2008 Fucking Hell by Jake and Dinos Chapman, he concluded that you ‘can’t have art that…

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Review: ‘Time, Conflict, Photography’

Review of photography exhibition ‘Time, Conflict, Photography’ at the Tate Modern.

The Oxford Culture Review

A photographic canvas stretches across a wall in the Tate Modern. Slowly fading from black to white, the only discernible shape is in the centre, what looks like the leaves of a palm tree. Having come to the Tate for their Conflict, Time, Photography exhibition (running until March 2015), this was not an image I expected to see. Intrigued, I explored the accompanying text. Here, the photographer in question explained that as an embedded journalist, assigned to a specific military unit, he was not allowed to take photos of what he would usually have documented – colleagues kidnapped and killed, communities destroyed. Instead, when each of these events occurred he exposed a piece of photographic paper to sunlight, a memento of the images never captured, producing the work in front of me.

Creating this sense of ‘absent presences’ made this one of the most successful war exhibitions that I have…

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Ground Work: An Interview with Andrew Walton & David Attwooll

An interview with poet David Attwooll and artist Andrew Walton

The Oxford Culture Review

‘Ground Work’ is a collection of poetry and art by David Attwooll and Andrew Walton, based on a year of walks in Port Meadow, Oxford. The collection was exhibited earlier this year by Jenny Blyth Fine Art at Art Jericho. I spoke to them about the project, and the challenges of committing one of Oxford’s best-known landscapes to paper and canvas.

This is obviously a very collaborative process. How do you find working with someone else in such a close way?

Andrew: I’d known David as a good friend since the seventies and as someone who was very interested in the visual arts, is amazingly knowledgeable about music and is a very good percussionist playing in a street band. A couple of years ago we were having supper and he told me that he’d started writing poetry… Out of that we thought it would be interesting to have some kind…

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Lovers’ Rock: An Interview with John Goto

Interview with photographer John Goto

The Oxford Culture Review

Photographer John Goto’s exhibition ‘1977: Lewisham and Belleville’, the most recent to run at Art Jericho, displays photographs from both South London and Paris, taken in 1977. While the Belleville photographs focus upon architecture and objects, the Lewisham series consists of a set of portraits taken in a space adjacent to a dance hall at Lewisham Youth Centre, where Goto used to teach. This is the first time that the latter series has been displayed, and is published by Autograph ABP, an organisation established with ‘the mission of advocating the inclusion of historically marginalised photographic practices.’ They aim to build an archive that ‘addresses a gap in the visual representation of Britain’s cultural history and its diverse communities’, a brief that Goto’s photographs of young black people in 1970s London fits perfectly.

1977 was a year of significant political and cultural upheaval in South London, with the Battle…

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Consuming the Exotic

Review of ‘Consuming the Exotic’, an architecture exhibition by students of Oxford Brookes University.

The Oxford Culture Review

ⓒ Jennifer Jammaers ⓒ Jennifer Jammaers

Consuming the Exotic, a design exhibition by postgraduate architecture students at Oxford Brookes University, is currently running at the Old Fire Station. Focused upon visits to Istanbul and Cappadocia in Turkey, the artwork addresses themes of authenticity, cultural value, and ritual. Central to the exhibition is a focus upon carpet-making as a fundamental aspect of Turkish culture; half of the exhibition comprises the students’ visions for how this industry, and the associated ideas of cultural value, will change in the future. The perspective for this project was inspired in part by the cult science-fiction novel Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, using a projection of the future as a means of socio-political analysis and commentary. The socio-political focus of Consuming the Exotic is the environmental consequences of the booming tourist industry, not only in terms of quantifiable differences such as air pollution from increased air…

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‘The work is all about the moment’: Ezra Cohen Exhibition

Interview with gallery owner Aidan Meller about the work of Ezra Cohen

The Oxford Culture Review

Ezra Cohen’s new exhibition is running at the Meller Merceux Gallery, Oxford, until February 28th 2013. I spoke to gallery owner Aidan Meller about the paintings. 

The visceral paintings currently on exhibition at the Meller Merceux gallery are those of Ezra Cohen, a collaboration of two artists of the School of Oxford. The group, including painters such as Donald Wyland and Seth Bernstein, share studio space and aim to achieve a communal artistic process to the extent of contributing to each others’ canvasses. The two artists who are Ezra Cohen, one self-taught and the other with a degree in Fine Art, are united by a fascination with the landscape, and notions of isolation from and unity with it; their choice to create one personality, ‘Ezra Cohen’, as the voice of their art emphasises the inter-connectivity that they aim to strive for. ‘Approaching art jointly leads to creative surprises – that’s…

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