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The disappointment of ‘First Thursday’ the 3rd of February & the delight of Clarisse d’Arcimoles



First Thursday (3rd of Feb) in Vyner Street was as busy as I expected. The intention of this visit was mainly to see the show, in conjunction with The Salon Photo Prize, at the Matt Roberts Gallery; a much applied for and subscribed to event. Although I would have liked to have written a piece which detailed this opening, this will be impossible on this occasion. I am sure that there was some interesting work on display (images by Emma Crichton, Ben Gold and Rachel Wilberforce still managed to catch the eye under these disappointing circumstances). However due to the nature of the layout, size of the gallery, the number of works and the undoubted popularity of this exhibition it was unattainable; and totally intolerable to look at and properly assess the work. Having been given the impression that this was a prestigious photo exhibition I was certainly surprised just how poor the Matt Roberts Gallery space was. It did little justice to the 39 artists and their photographs, as you could barely get into the gallery. Subsequently it seemed like a ‘two in, two out’ policy was being conducted at the door. Furthermore it had said in the original ‘call for entries’ description that 100 artists would be selected. Maybe their lousy track record on all things numeric can also account for the fact that with 39 photographers displaying their prints in the gallery meant that it was absolutely overloaded with images. God help us if they had been honest and stuck to their original number of 100. Finally its also worth considering whether just so many artists, who remember had to pay to applied for this competition, would have if they had known just what kind of show they were going to end up in before hand?

Now that this is established, and removed from my chest; I will go on. From the initial disappointment which was The Salon Photo Prize, came real joy. This pleasure came in the form of the French photographic artist Clarisse D’Arcimoles. An artist I had only heard of once previously, when I saw her piece Rise and Fall in the free newspaper produced by a few months ago. I had remembered appreciating this work at the time, even if only fleetingly so.

A relatively new, young artist this is Clarisse’s debut solo show in London and takes place at HRL Contemporary galley; 12A Vyner Street. Although new, Clarisse is clearly fast making a name for herself; she is currently exhibiting at the Saatchi Gallery and Newspeak: British Art Now Vol II. The work at HRL is a collection of recent projects, its full title being: Clarisse d’Arcimoles: Un-Possible retour and Other Recent Works. The works include a series of images which are reconstructed from childhood family snaps. They are displayed alongside the original source images. Both funny and often moving these photographs work, like much of the images in this show, on a fundamental human level. What is striking to me is the tremendous physical similarities individuals have to their childhood; and in some cases even infant, appearances’. As Diane Arbus made clear the profound differences between identical twins, it seems d’Arcimoles is also able to highlight another overlooked aspect of the human physical form.

The other piece of significance is The Good Old Days (the series I had previously only ever seen in paper.) This project, a continual work, was an investigation into the life and times of Jimmy Watts, the oldest resident of the Market Estate in Holloway. The estate was demolished last year and d’Arcimoles displays the pages of her workbook which was used when planning and documenting this project. In this we see a collection of family snaps and personal photos of Jimmy and the estate, and unique documentation from his time living there. This work was also used to show the preparation for a film which Clarisse has made about this subject. An installation of a darken room is presented here. This is of a starkly illuminated old office with paper documentation every where and an old type writer on a desk; a ghostly experience, this setting further adds to the works profound sense of loss and history. What we see here is one man’s life presented to us through a variety of images and words. But also the existence of a whole housing scheme and a certain period in British history, and a way of life associated with this. Consequently the real strength of Rise and Fall is how it brilliantly combines the personal with the collective in that respect.

Clarisse’s film will be shown in a reconstruction of how it was screened in Jimmy’s flat before it was knocked down.

More details on the show can be found here: hrl contemporary

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