Tom Leighton’s new works reveal the poetic beauty that can result from painstaking digital manipulation. Leighton has travelled through Europe, Asia and North America, building up an impressive body of photographic images that he then combines to make fantastical landscapes.
The resulting works test our instincts. Do I recognise that building? Where are those mountains? How do I get the measure of this? What are those people doing? Adding to a sense of wondrous unease is the kaleidoscopic effect created by repeated motifs and themes, enhanced by Leighton’s clever use of colour. Subtle mirror images startle us. We look for patterns within the work, mining the minute details for meanings.The exhibition title, Collective View, hints at some of the many themes of Leighton’s work. A ‘collective’ is essentially a group, or something describing the group. Leighton’s images abound with groups of buildings, people, objects - a flurry of hot air balloons that fill the skies in Colosseum or the night taxis queuing for work in The Shard. But there is also a strange congruence - ‘collective’ also means making a whole.
Many of the buildings are famous; symbols that allow Leighton to juxtapose themes such as classical civilisation (the Roman Forum) and today’s financial sector (London’s Gherkin); work and leisure, city and country. Out of context and supplanted in Leighton’s cityscape we recognise them as signifiers for wider concerns. The Gherkin is not simply a place of work, but also evokes London and the global status of London, projected and perceived. We might wonder about the Gherkin’s place as a piece of architecture in the city - and how its form makes a statement about its function – but also about the current crises in the financial sector; a sleek modern structure that belies troubled times. Are financial institutions really our cathedrals? Classical architecture demonstrates how much the world has changed, and on another level, how ancient buildings have lost their original functions and evolved into tourist sites. Leighton’s images point at how our landscapes and the buildings within reflect our past, present and futures.
The landscapes are beautiful, empty and reflective, or populated and celebratory: crowds swell and disperse, evoking both exuberant joy and hidden unease. Crowds fill the spaces Leighton creates, channeled by the architecture. We as viewers look at the scenes from privileged vantage points mainly above the crowds. We are observers and participants, able to take in the images as we wish: we can analyse, search, reflect and wonder. This is an exhibition to marvel at.
Tom Leighton graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2006 and has since shown internationally. His work has been acquired by Museum & Foundation collections as well as a number of corporate and private international collections. In 2012 Tom Leighton was selected by The Annenberg Space for Photography in LA to take part in the Digital Darkroom Slideshow. In 2009 the Tate organised a Tate Patrons visit to his studio hosted by The Cynthia Corbett Gallery. His 2010 Solo exhibition “Appropriation of Space” received a 5* Review in the Independent. In 2006 he won the John Purcell Paper Prize and the Thames & Hudson Book Prize. He has exhibited in London, Paris, Tokyo and the United States. Collections include AT&T Corporate Collection, USA; Prudential Douglas Elliman, NYC, William Blair, Chicago / London, Amel & Nziad Makkawi, Dubai, The UBS Art Collection, London, JCA Group, London, The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, MuCEM (French National Museum of European and Mediterranean civilizations), Kunsthalle Weishaupt Collection, Ulm, Germany, Nicholas Topiol, President of Christian Lacroix, Paris and others.