Real Magic At Northlight

By Bernie Bell

Four in a row

I asked Anna – why ‘Real Magic’? and she answered – it’s because these photographs have not been messed with – no Photoshop here.

Here we simply have three people with an ‘eye’, and a camera, through which they express what they see, and the magic of what they see, without fakery.

I happened upon Anna, Cary and Ingrid, as they were setting up the exhibition, and so got the chance to see something of the process, equipment, and thought which goes into planning and placing the images to best effect, in the room.  It’s a good idea to start anything with a plan – the plan may go a bit awry, but, a plan is a good beginning to any venture

Real Magic exhibition plan

A spirit-level may seem a bit incongruous in an art gallery, but, when hanging the pictures, straight lines matter.

All the bits & pieces of paraphernalia needed for hanging and fixing, were laid out, nice and tidy, so that they were accessible and ready to hand.  The planning, arranging, hanging etc. needed to be done, and done in an organized way, but the folk taking part, didn’t view it as a labour – it’s all part of the joy of expressing, and sharing your form of expression.

Real Magic

I started by mentioning the artists in alphabetical order, so I’ll stick with that for presenting my responses to their work. These are my responses – just mine – others may have ….others.

The layout for Anna’s large set of images, started as a plan…

Real Magic

…which expanded, in reality, to fill a wall.

Real Magic

This collection is called ‘Beached’, and each one is numbered as a grid reference. Ingrid remarked that there is something cinematic about this set of images – like stills from a film, and I agree – though ‘stills’, they have movement in them.

This led us to discuss how the artist may have one thing in mind, or even, might not be quite clear what they want to produce, when they begin their work, which could end up quite different to the original plan – hence the many ‘sketches’ and rough–drafts we see of work by artists of all kinds. And then, add to the equation, the fact that the ways in which the resulting work is ‘seen’ by the observer, can vary as much as the number of people, who observe.

To me, this idea was illustrated by my response to Anna’s image, entitled ‘Flo’.  I asked  – “Why Flo?”  Anna said “Because that’s her name!”

Real Magic

Anna tells me that, when creating this image, in her mind she had the poem ‘Lorelei’ by Sylvia Plath – and listening to Sylvia reading that poem, I can see the connection……………

Before Anna told me this, when I first looked at the image, I thought ’dead folk’ – The Bog People, as investigated by PV Glob in his book of that name.

I am fascinated by the Bog People, so, that’s probably something to do with how I saw ‘Flo’.  How we interpret what we see, is often a result of our background – our life. I’m of Irish descent, and grew up with tales of bogs and their mysteries and magic – what can be lost in them, found in them, and sometimes, what rises from them.  So, it’s not surprising that’s how ‘Flo’ speaks to me – a Bog Lady – emerging.

Some of Anna’s previous work has something of this, too

Cary’s images are of ….lips.  They are of dolls lips, which look kind-of like they would be from baby-dolls, but Cary tells me – no, they are from dolls which are meant to represent women – though, women in what Universe, I don’t know!

These are striking images, but to me – creepy – very creepy –  maybe they are meant to be creepy?  Personal responses, again. Talking with Cary of the impetus to take photographs, she remarked that “There is no such thing as a straight photograph, as all photographers show what they want you to see.”

If you want to go and creep yourself out, go and look at Cary’s lips.  Maybe I should re-phrase that!

And so, to Ingrid’s images.  My main impression, is of seeing the familiar, in an unfamiliar way.  Most of the images, are of places and scenes which I know well, and which have been drawn, painted and photographed endlessly, but Ingrid’s are different. They have an air of un-reality about them. Real magic – presenting the familiar – as unreal.

I recognize Rackwick Bay, because of the stripy stone, but it’s not the picture-postcard Rackwick which we are often presented with.

Real Magic

Staying with Hoy – a view of Hoy, as though through a veil to another world…

Real Magic

The very familiar, homely view of Stromness, becomes something from a fairy-tale – a magic story of fin-folk and mere-folk, under the moon.

Real Magic

Except that the moon in this pic, isn’t the moon, it’s the reflection of a light in the gallery!  An image of reflections. Un-real-real-magic.

And finally, the artists sat down to prepare statements to accompany their work – Ingrid, Cary and Anna…

Real Magic

I thought that artists just booked the room, then placed things in it.  There’s a lot more to it – a lot more background planning and work, to present what we see, to us, as effectively as possible.

The exhibition is on until 27th August.

In a world of increasing fakery, catch some Real Magic.

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