‘From a Common Gesture’ at London’s 10 14 Gallery (until 26 January 2024) brings together 11 contemporary photographers working at the forefront of their field. Also featured in the January 2024 issue of Wallpaper*, the exhibition is curated by Wallpaper* and was realised together with the gallery and Nirvana CPH.
In their practice, these photographers share a moment of new direction, while gestures of material and scale bring the artworks into a site-specific visual conversation. Preview the photography here, and read on to hear from the team behind the show’s concept and curation: Wallpaper* Photography Editor Sophie Gladstone; freelance image director Holly Hay; art director and curator Jamie Allen Shaw of 10 14; and Nirvana CPH’s team.
‘From a Common Gesture’: 11 contemporary photographers at the forefront of their field
Shanghai-based Xiaopeng Yuan tells us, ‘I enjoy it when my existence, or even the interference of a camera, is forgotten by the subjects I’m photographing. This kind of situation is rare and often of short duration. Every time I experience this, my heart beats faster. In this sense, hiding behind a camera is like hiding inside a stage curtain. The photos that are taken during this time always become my favourites.’ In a similar vein, Yuan’s 2019 book Campaign Child uses the context of commercial photoshoots to form surprising and surreal narratives through clever reframings of scenes, while questioning the global spread of Western capitalist motifs. In 2013, Yuan co-founded the creative studio Same Paper, focusing on art book publishing, which has lately worked with Roe Etheridge. Its focus is on introducing publishers, publications and artists’ projects to young Chinese audiences.
With an early childhood playing in the woods, naturally, Ukrainian-American photographer Sergiy Barchuk formed a strong creative relationship with nature. ‘As our climate is becoming increasingly less stable and predictable, I hope to echo the interconnectedness and precariousness of the balance between humans and the rest of nature in my work. I am not aiming to make big statements about the planet or how we arrived at this situation, but hope to remind the viewers to slow down and investigate our surroundings, because an unfinished watermelon rind or a cracked egg can be a source of beauty and tranquillity.’ Barchuk skillfully merges these inspirations across editorial and commercial works, having recently collaborated with the likes of Jacquemus, Balenciaga, Frieze.
Paris-based Rebekka Deubner can be understood as a visual diarist, as she creates works that are self-aware of their context of contemporary photography. Images are generally presented in a serial form, giving the feeling of a temporal and narrative continuum. Here, she shares with us extracts from the series Strip, an active and abstract photographic response to the death of her mother a few years ago. Deubner utilises photograms and film stills as she works with clothing that belonged to her mother. Deubner’s other recent work includes documenting ongoing activism in France against water hoarding for intensive agriculture, and a diary responding to her body through the years. Whether focusing on the personal or the political, Deubner’s work carries a sense of intuitive care.
Nicole Maria Winkler
Born in Austria, and now based between Paris and Vienna, Nicole Maria Winkler brings together still and moving images. She builds her practice around image construction and staged photography, as well as psychoanalytic theories around the feminine experience and how such legacies have influenced art practices. Here in this excerpt of Labour Day, the profound moments of cells forming and a baby’s emergence convey boundless physicality and emphasise the integrality of a woman's autonomy over her own body. Alongside collaborations with the likes of Hermès, Dior and Calvin Klein, Winkler’s images have featured in galleries and cultural institutions across Europe, including the MEP in Paris.
A curiosity about how we perceive and process information is central to artist and curator Ibrahim Azab’s practice. He moves between collage, sculpture and performance with the same vivid energy that his pieces radiate, exploring the boundaries of the photograph as an object. After recently publishing his book EV3RY(TH1NG’5)_MOV1NG: BUT_IM (STILL) H3RE, Azab tells us he’s ‘working towards a series of modular sculptures that fragment the capital landscape, allowing the observer to reformat space, images, and industrial material through their way of intervention and thinking’. Music production and DJing are also increasingly feeding into Azab’s conversations of cultural expression, and manipulation of material and space.
Dorothy Sing Zhang
Dorothy Sing Zhang has always been interested in the synthesised and constructed. Her images are hard to encapsulate; they appear suspended in enigmatic narratives that pause at unnerving moments. The evolution of Sing Zhang’s practice has involved filmmaking – which she studied in Denmark, taught by Jørgen Leth, Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg – and fine art, studied at the Slade in London. Following Sing Zhang’s debut book Like Someone Alive, which depicted her subjects asleep, inadvertently photographing themselves, here she shares with us her latest work, The Architecture of You. She explains, ‘The "architecture" is the foreseeable, the fabrication. The "you" is the innocent, the unforeseeable.’
Alessandro Furchino Capria
Alessandro Furchino Capria describes his photographs as the outcome of two divergent magnetic forces, ‘an attraction towards the appearance of the subjects – animate or inanimate – and a dedication to a way of shooting in a relentless manner, that is at the same time also serene’. This approach was clear in his 2022 book Plastic Bags, a record of our contemporary relationship with consumption, typically unembellished and free from manipulation. Furchino Capria always surprises us with what he can bring his eye to, from seemingly banal tablescapes and domestic interventions to high fashion, as he recently did in a shoot for our September 2023 Style issue.
Ben Millar Cole
We’ve long been drawn to Ben Millar Cole’s work for the questions he asks of art at its complex current juncture; whether AI presents boundless creative possibilities, ‘or a dark and unavoidable end-time for art as we know it’. In his latest book, One Horse Landed, Millar Cole creates a narrative of horse and rider, but these recognisable forms soon dissolve into a metamorphosis of symbols that are industrial, abstract, alien or unknown. The photographer tells us, ‘Human nature compels us to cling to the recognisable, and it is the tension that comes from this searching that spotlights my true subject: the complex choreography between the human imagination and machine interference.’
With an infectious and palpable energy in both his work and presence, Guy Bolongaro has established a practice that can take many forms, shown here in his recent work Shleep. Photography was initially a form of therapy for Crewe-born Bolongaro after he suffered burnout in his previous career as a social worker, yet the skills he gathered from that chapter of his life remain present in his work. Gravity Begins at Home, documenting the surreal cosmos of family life in lockdown, was published by Here Press in 2022, and cemented Bolongaro’s place in contemporary photography of family dynamics. He has recently expanded his practice to include unexpected portraits of animals, and there is a soon-to-be-released Gravity Begins at Home calendar.
Silhouette and colour run throughout Florent Tanet’s work, as he takes his surrounding environment as material for surprising and playful compositions, describing his work as that of a ‘lazy person who does not make such effort and who creates with what is most common or already created’. He began his career as a trend designer and art director, so perhaps this has created a well-informed perspective from which to create in such a carefree and ready-made way. Alongside his editorial and commercial work, Tanet has exhibited his takes on daily life as a playground through galleries in Europe, China and the US.
Five years of Caroline Tompkins’ photographic exploration of desire and fear became Bedfellow. Published in 2023 with Palm Studios, the book felt at the cusp of a movement in current discourse that was acknowledging the complexity and contradictions of pleasure and danger. Tompkins brings an intuitiveness towards dichotomies to all her works. She tells us, ‘I’m still interested in men. I still want to look at them and think about what they care about. I’m still interested in my mom and my grandmother and the Czech Republic. I want to be more intentional with my image-making – construct more, direct more, confuse more. I’m just getting started.’
Behind the scenes: the makers of the exhibition
Here we publish a conversation between those behind the concept and curation of ‘From a Common Gesture’: Wallpaper* photography editor Sophie Gladstone; freelance image director Holly Hay; art director and curator Jamie Allen Shaw of 10 14; and Nirvana CPH’s team which was behind the mixed-media printing.
Sophie Gladstone: A show this unusual was always going to be a complex creative endeavour, so I’d love to share with our Wallpaper* readers more about the process.
Holly Hay: This project is the perfect case study for how I want to be working moving forward; asking questions rather than needing to resolve something, building on relationships with artists, and making a mark in the sand for what is happening in photography right now.
Nirvana CPH: On the face of it, producing unique solutions for this many different photographers has ‘challenge’ written all over it. Beneath that? A producer’s playground. One of our mantras is ‘graphics on ANY surface’. We’re a team of problem solvers who love design. This exhibition allowed us to think and play in ways often overlooked in more commercial settings.
Jamie Allen Shaw: What's been surprising is the level of trust from the artists. Having the freedom to draw lines between different ideas is one thing, but to double down on that and decide exactly how that new idea is placed in a room and on what material is another.
SG: Freedom of this scale is such a rare treat when working with already existing artworks, isn’t it?
HH: I am so used to the confines of a print magazine, its size, the quality of the paper and print. Working with Nirvana CPH has been an absolute delight. They have brought their big ideas, creativity and access and applied it to how we can interact with a photograph and what form that can take.
NCPH: The real challenge was stopping ourselves from going too big and wild with each piece, ensuring they kept their authenticity and identity.
HH: You don't often get the opportunity for such blue-sky thinking when presenting an exhibition format. We all embraced that conversation.
JAS: It's been fun, everyone loves a big egg.
SG: If you had to express what’s drawn us to these artists what would that be? For me, I know all of them have incredible potential to surprise us with what directions they take next; I love that creative suspense.
HH: These artists and their work aren’t new to us, but through conversation and following their careers, we noticed they were all at this very interesting moment. Practices were developing, and solidifying, in thoughtful, impactful ways. It is a lovely opportunity to put a pin in such an important juncture, not as [the artists] are emerging, not mid-career but at this very fruitful space in between.
JAS: This particular project has allowed me to introduce work I know well to other artists' topics of conversation. Everyone has that artist's rhetoric, the one that allows both a slight of humour and progressive conversation to be in the same room. To me, some of the most enjoyable artists to work with have those practices; they can wear different clothes or speak multiple languages – it's liberating.
SG: That leads us to the show's title, 'From a Common Gesture'.
JAS: Titling a show is often an arduous process. You either had it from the beginning or you'll be talking to Chat GPT. What we did have from the beginning was a collective appreciation for where these artists are and what they are attempting to step into next. Perhaps the ‘common gesture’ is a form of throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks, a form of bashful bravery.
HH: For me, photography is so much about the community it harnesses… cross-pollinating and collaborating every minute. I like the idea that the piece in the magazine and the physical show that follows bring that same energy.
SG: What’s next for all of you?
HH: I’ll be providing opportunities for new important work to be seen and engaged with, while having the pleasure of working with the best in the business.
JAS: I have a unique responsibility with 10 14, managing a programme whilst also growing a space’s ethos from the ground up. I have to rely on my own compass a lot of the time. That way of working allows me to bring in projects that I feel flex against the traditional gallery infrastructure and ultimately make new ideas happen, which is essentially my operative: new ideas and new opportunities.
NCPH: Our mission is to make better things for our clients. Smarter, more beautiful and more sustainable brand expression holds the key to achieving creative and strategic ambitions. We have been working with Burberry for the last 15 years and have just supported the new vision and rebrand from a colours-materials-and-finishes point of view, incorporating Daniel Lee’s new branding and colours. We’re also working with Joseph, and collaborating with design agencies.
‘From a Common Gesture’ is open until 26 January 2024, at 10-14 Crossway, London N16 8HX, by appointment only, east.co
A version of this story appears in the January 2024 Next Generation Issue of Wallpaper*, available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today!
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As Photography Editor at Wallpaper*, Sophie Gladstone commissions across fashion, interiors, architecture, travel, art, entertaining, beauty & grooming, watches & jewellery, transport and technology. Gladstone also writes about and researches contemporary photography. Alongside her creative commissioning process, she continues her art practice as a photographer, for which she was recently nominated for the Foam Paul Huf Award. And in recognition of her work to date, listed by the British Journal of Photography as ‘One to Watch’.
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