Saturday, 1 September 2012

Studio Visit - Richard Galpin

This week I was lucky enough to visit Richard Galpin's studio, to hear the artist talk through his work, see the greatest DIY lightbox of all time, and learn more about the inspirations and processes integral to his 'photography' de/constructions.

Galpin focuses on ideas around construction and destruction, preservation and revolution. Essentially, he takes highly considered medium format photographs of urban environments, and meticulously removes the emulsion from the sheet, peeling back carefully scalpel-cut sections, leaving only the white of the backing paper beneath, creating new images of order or disorder from the chaotic sprawl.

He might, for instance, remove all trace of branding or logo, all sign of human presence, or refocus an image to only contain the structures and scaffolds (often literal) around modern architecture. Galpin described his interest in architecture as only really occurring during a building's inception, or it's ruined state - 'the bit in between doesn't really hold anything for me'.  He discussed the problems of architecture 'vernacular' - giveaway red rectangles of phone boxes in London; yellow shapes of cabs in NYC - and the tension between leaving them and obscuring them - does he want to the viewer to play a guessing game or look for something else other than the scene of the original photo?

Galpin discussed the process of taking the source photograph too. He has long abandoned any interest in aerial or elevated views, and instead prefers street level shots using a zoom lens; both aspects heighten the sense of depth being flattened. By removing foreground or background objects, the various planes in an image pull forward or backward, confounding the viewer - human scale is pretty much removed.

Given my own particular interest in 18th century visual culture, it was interesting to note Galpin's reference to the picturesque movement and theorists (I wonder if he had any affinity to the Rev Gilpin given their similar surname!) The picturesque artists and writers often talked of 'improving' a view, and the attractions of the ruin over the intact, in highlighting civilisations fragility and ethereality, despite the apparent permanence of the structures it built.

Similarly, the idea of palimpsest featured heavily - the examination of visual traces of the past pushing through to the present.

Do check out his website, here.

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