Magical mystery tour
Saying mm, mm. mm to convention, Patrick Bailly-Maitre- Grand has his eye firmly on the magical potential of photography. Susanna Beaumont talks to him about his ‘amorous pursuit’.
Tying in nicely with the belief that the French are generously blessed with romantic tendencies. it seems only too appropriate that Patrick Bailly- .‘vlaitre-Grand‘s work as a photographer is described as ‘an amorous pursuit‘. And on the phone early one morning. the Parisian enthused about his photographic exploits with what -« to a Brit‘s mind — was surely Gallic passion.
‘lt‘s the magic of photography.‘ he says. 'I want to escape the ordinary small camera in your hand — if you do that you don‘t know what might happen.‘ And true enough. his work holds something magical. It‘s a world away from conventional documentary photography. inhabiting instead a world of make-believe and technical wizardry. In some ways Bailly-lVlaitre-Grand is on a par with a
Through a glass darkly: Ballly-Maitre-Grand’s photographs of the moon
conjuror on the lookout for all that's beautiful — but he‘s playing tricks.
()ne of France‘s top photographers. Bailly-Maitre- Grand once declared that ‘photography is a liar‘ and that the subject matter is ‘systematically mummified . . . we can only have the strongest reservations about its capacities to represent reality‘. In stating this. Bailly-Maitre-Grand gave a slap in the face to the old adage ‘the camera never lies‘.
It is perhaps his training in physics and science that gave Bailly-lylaitre-Grand a dose of scepticism. But it was disillusionment with life in the lab that led him to take up painting. That medium then lost
its attraction after half a dozen years spent working in a hyper-realist style — BaiIIy-Maitre-Grand would spend a fortnight painting the minute details of a fly — and he turned to photography. Offered at 19th century daguerreotype. a forerunner of today‘s camera which produced a plate image. he became hooked. ‘I was surprised by it. the dust. the ghost of the image.‘ he says. ‘I was interested in the shadows.‘
Caught by the magical possibilities of photography and keen to experiment. Bailly-ly/laitre-Grand set about conjuring up images. And in the three exhibitions of his work in Scotland at Street Level. Glasgow School of An and the French Institute — he has managed a bit of an artist’s coup. his work is also being shown simultaneously in Bradford. Norwich and Cambridge — he explores the world of optical illusion and the magical.
Like some images from photography‘s infant years. Bailly-Maitre-Grand‘s photographs are not always what they seem. His Les Uranies shows linger drawings made in the condensation on a pane of glass. and through the glass is seen the outline of foliage and the moon. As with Julia Margaret Cameron. the Victorian woman who photographed ‘fairies‘ at the bottom of the garden. Bailly-Maitre- Grand‘s positive and negative images are make believe. ‘I could have tried to catch the real moon. but it would be difficult and the result would be beautiful but not as beautiful as this.‘ he says of his mocked-up moon.
Yet Bailly-Maitre-Grand doesn‘t accept the accusation that he is a late 20th century photographer romantically and technically engaged with the past. ‘I work forwards not backwards.‘ he argues. ‘I want to escape into the magic of photography.‘
Patrick Bail/y-Maine-(1mm! fr H'Ut‘k is at Street Level and Glasgow Selma! ()f/lrt. Glasgow until Sat 2/ Dec; and the French Institute. Edinburgh anri/ Fri 24 Jan.
Floral ﬂights of fancy
Wander around any fabric department and it will be there in abundance - rolls of floral furnishing fabric, richly decorated with curling tendrils, large coloured blooms and twisting foliage. Visit a small-town tearoom, a suburban sitting room or a countrified bedroom and the floral fabric is in action. Covering cushions, covering tables, covering beds and hanging at the window. It may even co-ordinate with matching wallpaper.
louise Hopkins uses such floral furnishing fabric in her work. She takes a piece, stretches it and then reverses it. She carefully modifies the fabric, painting it with layers of translucent gesso and then meticulously paints over sections of
Floral tribute: a reversed and painted
', the floral decoration. She never i completely obliterates the pattern,
' but it is drained of its former garden bright colours to become a mass of grey foliage set against white.
,. I; . a I Since 1993, Hopkins has been
. ‘_ "' , ': , working with fabric. It’s important to her that she uses a medium that is already in existence - she also works
‘I am interested in what the fabric stands for,’ says Hopkins. ‘It may not be specific, but a part of that culture of Middle England, what it likes and dislikes about itself, its ambiguities.’ And looking at her stretches of fabric subtly modified, what does come to mind is a sense of seething forest undergrowth. like the paintings of
. ,1 r. ’ with printed songsheets - but she is the Victorian artist Richard Dadd, in , aware that viewers may see her work which he painted intricate weavings v.-<-';‘~,;:;5 " as lacking obvious skilled labour. ‘I of brambles inhabited by ghoulish “ U >943. , am not interested in painterly skills,’ fairies, or Burne-Jones’s Briar Rose " ’ says Hopkins, ‘but I am sure when caught up in a profusion of briars, r a}? 7’ some people look at it, it raises Hopkins’ work suggests the murky
questions of copying and cheating. ‘,,. .1 _V > But that is going to trigger other
side of an attractive herbaceous border. The fabric subverted by
I, 7"; 1 questions and that doesn’t worry me. Hopkins mirrors the creeping and _ “vii ( «if It is part of the issues of the work.’ consuming idea of righteousness ,j 4 5 .~ ' But just as the hushed tones of a masquerading as prettiness. As . ’ ‘ ~ floral-decked tearoom may at first Hopkins says, ‘The flowers I repaint . J} seem calming and restorativer become brown, they become ’ genteel, there can be a sense of grotesque; a reference to horror f; suffocating under a surfeit of cosy films and the parasitic.’ So next time values. likewise with Hopkins’ work, you are confronted by the floral, look ‘i" there’s a sense of something and think again. (Susanna Beaumont)
stretch of furnishing fabric claustrophobic.
insidiously disarming and
louise Hopkins, Tramway, Glasgow until Sun 22 Dee.
'l'hc Lisl :9 Ni“ - l 3 Dec I‘Nh 65