Category Archives: surrealism

Esther Teichmann: Fractal Scars, Salt Water and Tears

Esther Teichmann’s photographs – actually more of an installation using mainly photographs – are on display at Flowers Kingsland Road, London until 10 May 2014. The images are somewhat dark and the meaning obscure so displaying them in the upstairs space with its smaller area, lack of natural daylight and lower ceiling height is very appropriate.


Esther Teichmann photographs

Large manipulated overlapping images give a surreal quality to Esther Teichmann’s exhibition

Although the images are recognisably of places or people or shells, they are altered to give them an other-worldliness. They are then overlapped or juxtapositioned to produce a surreal effect as if we have been transported to a dream-world which Teichmann is exploring both physically but more importantly, emotionally and with a strong feminine theme. A central display of coral, wood and one of my all-time favourite books “The Shell: Five Hundred Million Years of Inspired Design” points out that we air-breathing creatures can still explore an underwater world in our imaginations, where physical limitations can be overcome.

the Esther Teichmann show at Flowers Kingsland Road, London

Part of the Esther Teichmann show at Flowers Kingsland Road, London

At first I found Teichmann’s show perplexing, as if it was in another dimension that I wasn’t part of, but as I looked around (several times) I found myself becoming more involved in her exploration. Once I mentally released myself into this different, parallel world I enjoyed it. Thank you, Esther, for being my guide even though you weren’t there!

Harry Callahan: always the teacher

There is a great show of Harry Callahan’s (1912-1999) work at London’s Tate Modern museum at the moment (until 31 May 2014). It is well worth going to see.

Cattails Against Sky

Cattails Against Sky. Harry Callahan, 1948

Callahan’s main role and income-generator was teaching photography.  This left him free of commercial pressures and able to explore with the eye of an artist. Nevertheless you cannot take the teacher out of the images: all of his photographs are lessons in how to see photographically, from the surreal (for example, shop mannequins) to the abstract (his shots of plant forms). The examples show us that the world as seen through Callahan’s camera/eye is an endlessly fascinating place.

Mannequin Legs

New York (Mannequin Legs). Harry Callahan, 1955

I overheard one teenager ask her friend “is that a time exposure?”, and the roving security guard was seen admiring the abstract images. So for different people the show functions at different levels, which is one hallmark of a successful exhibition. For me, the abiding memory is of the inquisitiveness that Callahan’s roving eye had, and this was generated internally not by some desire to copy prevailing trends. That’s a good lesson for us all!

Grasses, Wisconsin

Grasses, Wisconsin. Harry Callahan, 1958

There’s an interview with Harry Callahan on YouTube

Horses reject new unicorn costume

Another bizarre cone picture!

cone in field with horses

Is this cone grazing with the horses? Or has the horn fallen off the unicorn on the left, which then turned into a cone? Image copyright Malcolm Raggett

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 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,  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, and I really like a good metaphor such as: all is not idyllic in the bucolic English countryside – The River

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.