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Vanessa Winship: And Time Folds - Barbican Art Gallery

Exhibition preview

FROM June 22 to September 2, 2018, Barbican Art Gallery is presenting the first major UK solo exhibition of British contemporary photographer Vanessa Winship.

The recipient of the prestigious Henri Cartier-Bresson Award in 2011, Winship’s poetic gaze explores the fragile nature of our landscape and society, how memory leaves its mark on our collective and individual histories.

Winship’s oeuvre captures the ‘transition between myth and the individual’, revealing deeply intimate photographs that often appear to avoid specific contexts or any immediate political significance. The exhibition brings together an outstanding selection of more than 150 photographs, many of which have never been seen before in the UK, as well as a collection of unseen archival material.

Vanessa Winship: And Time Folds is part of the Barbican’s 2018 season, The Art of Change, which explores how the arts respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape.

Vanessa Winship said: ‘I’m delighted to have the opportunity to be able to show what I’ve been doing these last years to an audience in my home country; to introduce older works, but also to have the possibility, for the first time, to reveal something of the new’.

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican said: “It is a real pleasure to stage the first major show of Vanessa Winship’s work in the UK at Barbican Art Gallery. Highly regarded and firmly established within photographic circles, this much overdue exhibition will be a wonderful opportunity to introduce Winship’s photography to a wider public, as well as to showcase a great body of her powerful, and also deeply poetic work, from early prints to more recent projects completed for the exhibition. As part of The Art of Change, and staged alongside the first UK retrospective of Dorothea Lange, this promises to be a stellar summer of two photographic greats”.

Vanessa Winship’s practice focusses on the junction between ‘chronicle and fiction, exploring ideas around concepts of borders, land, memory, desire, identity and history’. Living and working in the region of the Balkans, Turkey and the Caucasus for more than a decade her epic series Imagined States and Desires: A Balkan Journey (1999–2003) and Black Sea: Between Chronicle and Fiction (2002–2006) investigate notions of periphery and edge on the frontiers of Eastern Europe, displaying the human condition through a vulnerable, yet intentionally incomplete, narrative.

Capturing fragmentary images of collective rituals, means of transport and leisure activities, she presents a frieze of the human landscape in these regions, expressing society’s relationship to the terrain while remaining remote from any precise geo-political or historical events.

Also on display is the formal yet strikingly intimate series Sweet Nothings (2007), portrait photographs of school girls from Turkey’s eastern borderlands. The series of portraits, produced in an almost serial manner by Winship, draws the viewer’s attention to the individual features of the girls, particularly the affectionate messages or ‘sweet nothings’ which are embroidered on their lace collar or bodice of their uniforms.

By photographing repetitious and formal portraits she emphasises the girls as individuals, ‘unified by many things including their history, their position in society, and the fact that they are little girls from a rural place’.

Vanessa Winship is perhaps best known for winning the prestigious Henri Cartier-Bresson Award in 2011which enabled her to undertake a new photographic series in the United States. Set upon the backdrop of the economic recession and decline of the American Dream, she dances on Jackson (2011–2012) explores the basic human connection between people while tracing the history of violence that characterises the country, from California to Virginia, New Mexico to Montana, and still impacts the population today.

Following the great photography masters including Walker Evans, Robert Adam and Robert Frank, Winship sensitively navigates the engrained scars of neglect which has transformed the once prosperous landscape. Winship includes timeless scapes of the American terrain depicting the lasting effects of a crumbling civilisation, resonating with the landscapes of her hometown estuary and discussing concepts of periphery and edge expressed in her series Humber (2010).

Turning to the eastern-European state of Georgia in her series Georgia: Seeds Carried by the Wind (2008–2010) Winship explores a country whose people celebrate the lush beauty of their land, but are also inherently melancholic due to the memory of conflict and weight of the post-Soviet economic collapse. Beside photographs of neglected Soviet sculptures, studies of contemporary Georgian people and photographs of funerary pictorial portraits are presented in colour for the first time in Winship’s oeuvre.

To coincide with the exhibition, Winship has conceived a new and ongoing photographic series, And Time Folds (2014-ongoing). Shown for the first time at Barbican Art Gallery this body of work combines black and white and colour photography with found objects to create a thought-provoking departure from her previous series.

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