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Sight Unseen: MA Photography at the University of Sunderland

Sight Unseen:
MA Photography at the University of Sunderland
14 November 2009 - 9 January 2010
 

Richard Glynn
Siwan Liu
Zhou Lvcan
Patritsia Panayi
Yu Zhu

"The 'landscapes' I have in mind are not part of the unseen world in a psychic sense, nor are they part of the unconscious. They belong to the world that lies, visibly, about us. They are unseen merely because they are not perceived; only in that way can they be regarded as invisible."
Paul Nash, 1938

The five photographers in 'Sight Unseen' each present us with works that explore what photography is capable of and what it cannot do.

Most of the world and its 6 billion citizens are beyond our experience. Moreover, the human brain filters the sensory information it receives to make sense of the world.  A camera lens, by comparison, can only capture light; the word 'photography' means 'light-writing'. It is, however, through this process of documentation that photography can both reveal new sights, and allow us to revisit ones that have become 'invisible' through over-familiarity.


Richard Glynn: 'Bowes Museum', from the photographic series 'Lost Waltz' , 2009"

Richard Glynn's images' Lost Waltz' allow us to see part of a major museum never normally exposed to the public gaze. John and Joséphine Bowes commissioned the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle in the 1860s, however, they did not live to see their building completed. The main room of the central tower was originally conceived as a ballroom - however it was never completed and as Glynn points out, "the space itself never saw a dance". The room is one in which the absence of people, décor and functions are what we see.

Siwan Liu's photographs ask us to consider the value of images in a world dominated by digital photography. For Liu, the ease and speed at which images can be taken, deleted, copied and circulated has devalued their currency.  Tourist images are perhaps the ultimate example of a type of photograph that has become devalued through over-use and over-familiarity. Liu asks: How could we begin to look again at places we already know?


Zhou Lvcan 'Bibi's Shelter' examines the life and times of an unemployed recent graduate in China. Bibi graduated from a college in China three years ago - but has yet to find long-term employment. The pressures on the young and highly educated in China are intense. His unemployment has affected his relationships, with his parents and partner, and there seems to be no escape from his financial situation. Zhou remarks,that "it is not his relative poverty, nor his low social status that trouble him. It is his lack of hope for the future."  It is only in his car that can he find a metaphorical 'shelter' and independence, in a world that he is unable to control.
 

Patritsia Panayi 'The Seven Deadly Sins' uses the language of advertising photography to ask the question 'do we have a common language of the symbolism of colour? Her subject matter the 'seven deadly sins' - envy, greed, gluttony, wrath, pride, lust, and sloth - are character traits rather than acts, and as such, inherently un-presentable. Here, Panayi, suggests the sins have with their own specific colours, but does not tell us which is which - we each have to come to our own conclusion. The images are a test of how subjective our responses are to colour.


Yu Zhu's project 'We Just Want to Walk in the Sunlight.' looks at the position of gay women in China. Even in 1994 homosexuality was officially described as a mental illness. Relationships between gay men were decriminalized in 1997, yet same-sex relationships remain a major taboo for many.

Yu Zhu's images document the lives of one lesbian couple, living in China. To avoid discrimination one of the couple has married a gay man; they live together so that their sexual orientation can remain secret. In Zhu's words, this is "love, conducted the hard way".