Focal Point Gallery is pleased to present Southend-born artist Bridget Smith’s solo exhibition ‘If You Want To Talk About Light You Have To Talk About Waves’.
Smith has exhibited her work internationally and is known for a style that is both documentary and reliant upon the imagination. Smith’s images explore the interplay between objectivity and subjectivity. This ambitious new work takes the artist’s interest in the transformative properties of light, colour and pattern further, into a series of installations throughout the gallery that draw on her experiences growing up near Southend’s pleasure resort – a space where the ‘unreal’ emerges as an intense aesthetic experience.
A series of large-scale cyanotype prints, Blueprint for a Sea, are presented in Gallery 1. One of the earliest photographic processes (known as blueprints), the technique uses ultra-violet light to create two-tone representations on paper. This series of images have been created by photographing cinema seating, but also allude to the wave-like forms and light refractions on the surface of the sea. The prints re-imagine an exterior landscape through interior space. The resulting images hold the two spaces in unison in much the same way as the landscape backdrops used in makeshift photography booths of the 19th Century seafront.
Displayed alongside these abstract seascapes are a series of suspended opaline globe lights, which simultaneously act as a source of illumination and a reference to the Sun. In Smith’s work, both the image and prop activate and alter our perception of the other.
Attention to the detail of escapist spaces is taken further in Gallery 2, where Smith presents a 1:1 scale cyanotype print, Blueprint for a Curtain, depicting a silk theatre curtain, which spills off the walls of the gallery on to the floor. Shown alongside this, Painted Forest (raining), utilises an obsolete theatre light to project a rain effect onto a photograph of painted scenery from an amusement park. The activation of a two-dimensional image using primitive light mechanisms was common amongst early seaside attractions.
This interest in crude photographic techniques is also highlighted in the Window Gallery, where a series of large-scale replicas of camera lens filters, Sunset Filters, have been arranged along the length of the window. These filters would have been used to create sunsets and tinted vignettes around a subject and here Smith has created her own sunset gradations on a grand scale. In this space, the Sun’s movement across the front of the gallery creates a subtly changing backdrop on the wall behind.
Whilst drawing from her research of the photographic archives in Southend Museum, Smith has also spent time documenting the arcades and escapist spaces in the town today. The installation of two synced videos, Mechanical Wave, in the gallery entrance transposes the continuous hypnotic movement of these fantasy spaces into the usually sedate and tasteful gallery environment. Here Smith playfully alludes to the gallery’s role as the newest attraction of the modern seaside resort, highlighting the current trend towards culture, and in particular contemporary art, as a catalyst of regeneration for these forgotten spaces.
Bridget Smith (B.1966 in Leigh-on-Sea) lives and works in London. Smith is currently Artist in Residence at The Swedenborg Society and has exhibited her work at institutions including, Victoria & Albert Museum (2013), Bromer Art Collection, Roggwil (2013), Stanley Picker Gallery, London (2012), Peer, London (2010), Two Rooms, Auckland (2008), Musée D’art Contemporain, Val de Marne (2007) and De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill (2006).