Lottie Davies: surrealist story-teller

Laura Noble has excellent taste in art-photography and I try to attend any show she is involved with.  She now runs a virtual gallery at http://www.lauraannnoble.com/ rather than a permanent physical space, but she has just taken over a display area at London Metropolitan University’s Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design to show a set of images by Lottie Davies. It’s right outside Aldgate East tube station in London, UK, so quite easy to get to if you are near London.  Read about the exhibition opening here.

Like many creative photographers, Lottie splits her time between paid commissions and her art projects. The show that runs from 5 April to 4 May 2013 is her “Memories and Nightmares” series.  There’s a video interview with Lottie on YouTube that gives some interesting background.

Lottie Davies' exhibition

Lottie Davies’ Memories and Nightmares exhibition at the L. A. Noble Gallery, 5 April to 4 May 2013.

Although each image can be viewed independently of its caption, each caption describes a dream, nightmare or memory that Lottie has interpreted photographically.  A few of the images were quite straight-forward and didn’t demand much from the viewer.  Others were much richer and complex, requiring some time, observation and imagination to interpret.

With some I read the caption first then looked at the photo, with others I did the reverse.  I found the most rewarding experience was to look at the photo and place my own interpretation(s) on it, then read the caption then look back at the photo to see if the meaning had changed.  In some cases the caption simply provided back-story but in others it provided more explicit guidance to the viewer.  This exhibition provides an interesting study in the relationship between an image and its caption.

As images of dreams and nightmares they qualify for the label of Surrealist, though something more is required: a air of unreality or super-reality is also needed to earn this badge and many of Lottie’s images to have this quality.  They are tableaux but with an other-worldly quality.  I was particularly drawn to the Red Devil, http://lottiedavies.com/#/Art/Memories%20and%20Nightmares/9/.  Its detail and ambiguity allowed many readings around the theme of belief, superstition, religion and cognitive dissonance. I gather there was even a bible hidden out of sight of the camera – perhaps as a talisman for the photographer!  There are references to nursery rhymes: “…here comes a candle to light you to bed, and here comes a chopper to chop off your head!” in The Girl and the Tower http://lottiedavies.com/#/Art/Memories%20and%20Nightmares/11/, and I really like a good metaphor such as: all is not idyllic in the bucolic English countryside – The River http://lottiedavies.com/#/Art/Memories%20and%20Nightmares/4/

This is a fascinating show but plan to spend some time reading the images to get the most from them – a passing glance does not do them justice.  Well done Lottie, and thanks to Laura for bringing them to a gallery space.

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