The state of the environment – activated by observation, exploration and intervention – is the common subject taken up by eighteen photographers included in the current exhibition at Flower East. The show’s framework is intentionally broad, stretching the term ‘environment’ to encompass both urban and rural landscapes and surveying ecological, anthropological, political, architectural and aesthetic concerns. The wide berth also allows Chris Littlewood, the gallery’s Director of Photography and the show’s curator, to bring together work by heavyweight gallery artists (including Edward Burtynsky, Andy Goldsworthy and Robert Polodori) into proximity with images from a younger generation of artists.
Taking over entirely the two sprawling floors of gallery space, pictures with related concerns but drastically different approaches generate a pace and balance that grounds and elevates the newer work, on one hand, while also putting the more established images into relief, suggesting both their significant legacies and the shifting energies that seem to destabilize their authority. Without a prescribed political stance or dominating aesthetic linking the work, the relationships between images feels instinctual, agile and light-hearted.
This is especially true in the main space on the upper level, where work by Burtynsky, John Maclean and Tom Lovelace triangulate the space. In the corner, the swath of water below the sheer cliff wall in Burtynsky’s Rock of Ages, 1991 is a stunning racing green, an anchor for the room. It’s also a perfect foil for the work of John MacLean, opposite, which infuses flares of colour into the geometric rifts in snowy landscapes.
On the longest continuous wall, Tom Lovelace’s Forms in Green, Hackney 1, 2, 6 & 9, 2011 unfolds as a sequence of fabric panels in shades of green, abstractions reminiscent of Rothko. In fact, the panels are disused notice boards from east London, faded from exposure to the sun at the edges of pinned pages now long-removed. Framed and formally displayed, they are a kind of naturally occurring abstract expressionism.
An often playful performative thread runs also through the exhibition. David Spero creates intricate constellations in otherwise banal interiors, turning our eyes into bouncing balls that track new sightlines and ways of looking. Scarlett Hooft Graafland inserts her own naked body into otherwise empty rural scenes, her form draped over Icelandic huts in the works here, adding a sense of scale and surreality to the images. The collaborative WassinglinkLundgren, by contrast, teases out a performance by unassuming passers by, who pause to collect and dispose of the empty bottles the artists have planted in Beijing and Shnaghai.
On view until 1 September, with work by Peter Ainsworth, Edward Burtynsky, Chris Engman, Andrea Galvani, Andy Goldsworthy, Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Nadav Kander, Jason Larkin, Jaehyo Lee, Alastair Levy, Tom Lovelace, John MacLean, Robert Polidori, Simon Roberts, Aaron Schuman, Raven Smith, David Spero and WassinkLundgren.