Album Beauty, Erik Kessels

Whilst in Amsterdam I did many things and saw many things that my grandma didn’t approve of when I told her, but surprisingly amongst all that, I saw an exhibition there that I think is going to greatly influence 2nd year. I visited the FOAM gallery, where the Dutch artist Erik Kessels, had an exhibition on called Album Beauty. I had already researched the show and thought it could greatly influence the ideas I’d been having regarding the photos which I picked up in Lisbon, and I wasn’t wrong! Kessels exhibition made me think so much about the near extinction of the family photo album and made me think about the direction I want to take my practice in as I move into 2nd year.

As I walked into the space I was greeted with top to bottom wall space of enlarged pages from a number of photo albums. I was invited to flick through a stack of miscellaneous photos of all different sizes. Kessels used both original and larger than life reproductions to give the viewer the sense that they were walking through the numerous personal stories. It certainly had that effect on me; when I walked into that first room I felt as though I had stepped into a giant photo album.

As Kessels explains the photo album has the ability to provide a condensed yet meaningful record of a life from birth to death. The photo album used to be something that was always there to look at in a family home, but as we are now a digital age we no longer feel the need to carefully create a loving album to share with generations to come. Facebook and other such sites have taken over. With features like timeline they try to re create the sense of the family album but with little success in my opinion. We edit our online photo albums to create the album we want people to see. We no longer leave in the mistakes the film camera made. I thought out this concept and wondered what it would be like if I created a piece whereby I only used the images that I didn’t put on facebook and mounted all those into an exhibition space. Or if I included all the photos I took, leaving none out, not even ones that are black or blurred. What if I had the two albums side by side in a grid format, like spot the difference?

A flood of ideas came to me in the exhibition space. I had already been considering incorporating photos into my paintings, inputting my Lisbon images into paintings of Lisbon city. I could further this though, use photos of my own and create paintings including them; I could use houses; my favourite topic? I want to create my own photo album, my own frame montages. I want to experiment with photographs that have become ruined; the ruined images Kessels had used reminded me of Gerhard Richter someone who has always inspired my work. I could cut out images and create collages. It’s rare for someone to physically cut out from a photo anymore, maybe we would crop and image but not just the person to create a photo collage. The cutting out process reminded me of a photo collage my grandma made of my christening and she included everyone who went in the collage. I need to find this! I really enjoyed the timings that were included at the bottom of some photos and the writing that explained certain images.

This exhibition really enlightened me. It wasn’t your typical white cube space, it felt homely, personal, yet all the people on the walls were strangers to me. I loved that the albums used where placed in the centre of the floor for all to see. I felt the exhibition brought together all of the ideas I’ve been having over the years. It brought me back to the photo dolls house I made at foundation. Could it be something I re visit? It also reminded me of the privacy notion I began to consider at the start of 1st year, there is no privacy with our photos anymore, there is no hiding in a family album for the select few to see.