Wednesday, 9:30am
18 January 2012

Picture puzzle

When is a photo not a photo? Why not ask Sue Steward’s ‘New Alchemists’ …

‘The New Alchemists’, an exhibition in Islington curated by Sue Steward, features 50 works by artists who work with photographs and the photographic process, in part reflecting what Steward herself described in Eye as the dramatic ‘changes in [photography’s] technical, compositional, theoretical and aesthetic meanings’ (see ‘Out of the darkroom and into the light’, Eye 80).

Top: Julie Cockburn, Boy (2011).

Steward is a writer and critic who has covered many different subjects, from World Music to Outsider Art, and she has also worked as a picture editor and curator. For ‘The New Alchemists’she has selected work that variously rethinks or reinvents photography in provocative ways. Many of the artists mix painting and photography, such as Esther Teichmann, whose work Steward describes as ‘quite psychedelic …she paints all over her photo prints with ink and acrylics.’

Esther Teichmann - Untitled, 2009 - medium

Above: Esther Teichmann, Untitled (2009).

This means that you really have to see this work ‘in the flesh’, during the exhibition’s short run as part of the London Art Fair at the Business Design Centre in Islington. (It closes at 5pm on Sun 22 Jan 2012.)

Below: David Birkin, Twenty Six Shades of Red (2011).

David Birkin - Twenty Six Shades of Red, 2011

Eye readers may be familiar with Veronica Bailey, whom Steward profiled for the magazine in 2006 (see ‘Torn space’, Eye 59). Bailey contributes an installation entitled ‘Hermes Baby’about the work of Marguerite Higgins, a journalist who covered the Korean war. The title refers to the portable typewriter used by Higgins.

Veronica Bailey screen shot

Above: Veronica Bailey,Turn and Bolt, Graveyard Foxholes, Perfect Target, Hopeless Odds, from the installation ‘Hermes Baby’. Ilford Bromide Paper B4-1P [Vintage]. Printed by VB from 35mm slide transparency. See

Jorma Puranen (below) uses a painter’s materials to make photographs that can look like paintings. Steward describes his approach: ‘He leaves big blocks of black-painted wood laid out on the ice or in fields.’ Puranen creates his final images by photographing the landscape as reflected in the shiny, distressed surface of the wooden panels.

Jorma Puranen - Icy Prospects 46

Below: Jorma Puranen, Icy Prospects 46.

Other artists represented include Walter Hugo, who uses arcane techniques from the history of photography and makes photo prints on to unconventional surfaces such as a brick wall, Joy Gregory (below) and Noemie Goudal.

Joy Gregory - White Rose Corset - medium

Below: Joy Gregory, White Rose Corset (2011).

Noemie Goudal - Haven Her Body Was (Warren), 2011

Above: Noemie Goudal, Haven Her Body Was (Warren) (2011).

Photo50;Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, London N1 0QH, UK.

See also ‘Out of the darkroom and into the light’ by Sue Steward in Eye 80, and ‘Hunger for the visual’ in the photo supplement to Eye 69.

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. The latest issue is Eye 81.