Leonora Hamill talks us through her first UK solo exhibition and picks out images from Saint Petersburg, Hanoi, Bombay and Tétouan
Art in Progress is inspired by art schools across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. The series, which started in 2009, consists of images of studios where the students work. Shot with a large format camera and printed analogically, the images are intentionally detailed, frontal and neutral.
I have a certain way of confronting myself with reality and that is conveyed by frontal images, and by a cold aesthetic that offers the spectator the possibility of visually navigating a space that is simultaneously contemplative and dynamic.
Painting I Saint Petersburg was shot at the Repin Academy of Fine Arts, the most prestigious art school in Russia. It is fitting that a giant head of Socrates gazes at the very traditional still-life setup.
In Drawing I Hanoi I was particularly struck by the drawings on the wall which echoed Toulouse-Lautrec’s work hence referencing Vietnam’s colonial past.
Sculpture I Bombay was shot at the Sir J.J art school, which was built by the British during colonial times, and where sculpture is still taught in a very traditional manner.
I was drawn to the juxtaposition of the casts of Eastern deities with casts of typically Western motifs.
Sculpture I Tétouan was shot at the National School of Fine-Arts in Tetouan, an hour away from Tangiers and only just across the water from Spain. The chaos, the warmth, the presence of African statuettes and different types of wood are all very Mediterranean.
Despite their absence, the students remain present in the spaces they have occupied, the objects they have engaged with, and the work they are in the process of making. The spaces exude a palpable sense of collective energy. The objects that are scattered throughout the studios often belong to the Western canon of history of art and constitute a web of cross-references, which acts as a unifying device throughout the series. The studios, ranging from Hanoi to Saint Petersburg and Bombay to Tetouan, condense the presence of students, the passage of time, and the production of art, creating an intensely stratified space.