London’s winter exhibition season was full with familiar treats and new inspirations. The Hayward Gallery brings matches two photographers together who are not well known in Europe Eva Mendiata,Traces and Go Away Closer by Dayanita Singh. Cuban born Mendiata’s all too brief carrier encompassed multi media, land art, performance, drawing, 3-D work and especially film and photography to recordand explore ideas and issues of birth life resurrection and spirituality. The early traumatic experience of becoming dispossessed from her native Cuba escaping the grip of her countries revolution and being exiled to America in 1961 had a profound effect on the individual visual language she would evolve over the rest of her life as she endeavoured to establish her place in the world and her response to life. What she produced is often challenging, a visceral account of meditation and ceremony and a physical bonding of body and nature with Mendiata herself at the centre; always thought provoking and often hard to view, the work pioneered a pathway that others would adopt such as Cindy Sherman, Gillian Waring and Jenny Saville with Glen Luchford where physicality becomes the canvas for communication. The tragedy of her untimely death in 1986 just as her light was beginning to shine on the international stage and the loss to the world of a ground breaking communicator who had found a way to understand life and to communicate her findings cannot be underestimated. For Mendiata life is now reflecting her art as it is re-born and receives the recognition, especially in Europe. that is so deserves.
In her first major UK retrospective, Go Away Closer, Dayanita Singh brings her unique view of photography as an artistic medium and challenges the perception of traditional presentation. Singh masspublishes work in book form refining and exploring narrative structure juxtaposition and sequence. This has evolved into her latest body of work that is curated in to what Singh calls ‘Museums’. Large folding screens which hold up to 140 images and can be remodelled and arranged each time the work is shown. High quality black and white framed prints from a 6/6cm TLR lend a tradional look to the images, however the hard work is in the editing and sequencing where Singh spends the majority of her time considering and re-considering. Themes such as ‘Museum of Machines’ ‘Museum of Men-Recent’ show the range of her subject matter and within that the strength of her vision through meticulous editing. Alongside is also a selection of night time colour work, saturated dense images full of atmosphere, and although presented in traditional way the same rigorous sequencing is applied. At the heart of Singh’s work lies a passion for story telling and preserving memory and reflecting on experience. Both these photographers are well worth investigating.