• Andy Whysall

Woodman, Arbus, Mapplethorpe, Warhol, Paolazzi ... and Ambit. All inspiration.

If photography is about anything it is about people. It's often about the photographer themselves, from whichever side of the camera you may care to look. Many photographers make a big deal of photographing themselves and are famous for it. The amazing Robert Mapplethorpe was one, Francesca Woodman another, and interestingly enough, Diane Arbus - she showed herself to us directly sometimes but mostly showed herself through her pictures of others.

I don't do a great deal of portraiture but I know I should, and I like to see the work of others, which is why an exhibition of the three mentioned above, at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh was a complete inspiration (not necessarily including Mapplethorpe's bull-whip-up-the-bottom in that, but it is still an important part of the grander picture).

Because my mind is on my own exhibition I have been looking at shows this year with exhibition eyes on and looking at framing and hanging techniques. The other day Dr John Darwell said that the black and white print with white mount and slim black frame was passé, 1970s, he said, and he advocated that one of the students use natural wood frames for his black and white exhibition work. Had the images been like those by Francesca Woodman, intimate and compact, I might have agreed (see pictures for how well the natural frames work there), but Drew Rennie's images are rather larger and more technical and as far as I'm concerned they're shouting out for classic black.

Anyway, it has to be said that the Woodman/Arbus/Mapplethorpe show was an inspiration (nice black frames on Arbus in particular) and yet again the exhibition showed the value of the amazing Artist Rooms scheme, which has meant that great work has been shown to a much wider audience than in the past. I might have said this before, but without it, Tullie House in Carlisle would not have shown Anselm Kiefer, Mapplethorpe wouldn't have been at the Bowes museum, Josef Beuys wouldn't have been shown in Southend. It's great. The fact that National Galleries of Scotland is one of the co-operators of Artist Rooms, means that they tend to show a lot of it ...

...On the same trip Modern Art 2, Paolozzi and Warhol were the subjects of another Artist Rooms show. I prefer Paolozzi to Warhol, maybe it's the control that Paolozzi had over his fine work that I like. It's cleaner than Warhol. Perhaps I'm saying I like the apparent obsessiveness more. (In case it's not obvious. the top three images below are Warhol, the bottom three are Paolozzi).

AND...there's more...the AMBIT show at Stills Gallery Photographies from Scotland was about 'new and diverse approaches to photography'. Again, with my my exhibition hanging eyes on, I am very aware of the opportunities offered by dibond, which is what my graduate and Free Range show images are going to be mounted on (it's ordered, just waiting for it to arrive). Alex Hall's scrap cars images looked great on dibond with split battens on the wall. Six different photographer/artists with individual outlooks. It was easy to see where some of the inspiration being pointed at us back at Carlisle was coming from - especially Frances Scott's spindly line-maps of her Orkney walks. A clever idea that made me rather wish I was in Orkney with the weather on my side. Morwenna Kearsley's huge hanging silver-gelatine prints were abstract and involving.

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