Her Ground: Women Photographing Landscapes
Flowers Gallery - Kingsland Road, London
On until 31st August 2019 (FREE)
What would these photographs be like were they taken by men? As loaded as this question may sound I mean it in a genuine spirit of curiosity. Her Ground gives nine artists space to explore different interpretations of landscapes through photography, from a woman's point of view.
Corinne Silva's Garden State installation was what attracted me to this exhibition after having read about her work in the Financial Time back in January. A selection of 88 photographs of public and private gardens are on show. While no single image jumped out at me, their ensemble and especially what they represent spoke to me deeply. They are photographs of gardens in Israeli occupied territories between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Gardens. Apparently innocuous gardens. Gardens used as means of territorial expansion.
"The unexpected effects that a work of art can have on a human body never cease to amaze me."
The political thread continues in the works of Lisa Barnard in Peru where the cultural, historical and socio-economical aspects of gold mining are explored. Kristin Man reflects on concepts of beauty through abstraction while Mona Kuhn uses landscape as a stage to explore both abstraction and the human connection with the surrounding environment. Rikke Flensberg merges landscapes and womanly shapes reminding the viewer of our intrinsic relationship with the world around us. Dafna Talmor transforms landscapes in a process that looks like a collage resulting in a fragmented space aptly named Constructed Landscapes. Constructed (and natural) landscapes are also an interest of Anastasia Samoylova who explores how nature affects man-made structures in photographs taken in areas of Miami affected by rising sea levels.
In the centre of the exhibition space, on a very Yves-Kein-blue temporary wall, hangs the largest and most striking work of the show: Discovery, 2006 by Dutch artist Scarlett Hooft Graafland. The photograph depicts a tall 200-year-old cactus located on Isla del Pescado in the Bolivian salt desert. It's a breathtaking scenery that sets the stage for an intriguing performance. Look closely and you will see a naked woman's legs wrapped around the gigantic plant. The artist's penchant for tragicomedy stares the viewer in the face.
The highlight of the show were two works by Swedish photographer Maja Daniels: Winter Tree, 2016 and Autumn, 2017. The wooden frames and bare wooden walls on which Maja's photographs are hung contribute to the contextualisation of the works. While the subject of Winter Tree - a pine tree laden with snow - is well conveyed by its title, the sepia effect of the bottom half of the photograph invokes autumn. That same yellowish-red colour transmits a warm feeling to the viewer in a welcome contradiction to what is expected from winter. The unexpected effects that a work of art can have on a human body never cease to amaze me. In Autumn the very last leaves hold on to slim tree branches for dear life. The blurriness of the tree closest to the viewer frames the rest of the landscape in a way that makes you feel like you are hidden behind the tree spying into the woods.
The exhibition is a cohesive and harmonious exploit of varying views of landscapes. The background, interests and personal histories of the artists involved enrich the show in a way that supersedes their shared gender. As the viewer dives deeper into the works the fact that they were all made by women becomes an afterthought.