TheGuardian Thursday March 23 1989
Image and Imagination
IMAGE and Imagination is the unimaginative title for a show of photographic works by Tracey Holland, Lynne Silverman; Oded Shimshon and Chris Taylor. The artists have little in common other than a desire to break from the photographic format of a straight single-shot viewpoint. Images tend instead to be combined, superimposed or arranged in sequences.
Holland has distinguished herself in the past as an assemblage artist. Two of her assemblages are included here to form a background to her recent forays into photography. Of the four it is Holland who most activates the imagination, partly because of her almost total disregard and disrespect for clean-cut photographic conventions.
Her cibachrome colour prints present still.life tableaux of things like dead birds, playing cards, withered bouquets, fish fins and false teeth. All this decaying mess is arranged to form compositions of remarkable sensitivity and inventiveness. The work, far from seeming morbid, is quite simply startlingly beautiful.
One walks into a photographic gallery expecting to see images of obvious social and political relevance tidied up in an air of homeground coffee and wholefood buns. Holland’s work actively demonstrates the true meaning of imagination to disturb the viewer out of complacency into the dizziness at the edge of the unimaginable. These are some of the best photographs I’ve seen for ages precisely because they don’t look like photographs at all.
In comparison the rest of the show seems more like the work of professional photographers. Chris Taylor’s photographs taken during a journey through Asia and Australia are arranged like mementoes into groups of two or four. Oded Shimshon attempts to imply the absence of the photographer by setting up her tripod and recording the day-long changes of light and shadow on isolated objects, a block of stone or giant pumpkin. Lynn Silverman’s Furniture Fictions are juxtapositions of two horizontal images. One will be some sort of table top, the other something entirely divorced in them such as a dog’s backside.
One thing the exhibition suggests is that photography, always so concerned with proving itself a self-sufficient art medium, can be more exciting when it rejects its technical purity and opens out to be refreshed by other creative approaches.
Untitled Gallery, Sheffield until April 8