“For much of my life home has been an abstract place far away from my reach” Laura El-Tantawy
Seen Fifteen is delighted to welcome Laura El-Tantawy to take over our Peckham gallery space with a solo exhibition to launch a new body of photographs and a self-published monograph, Beyond Here Is Nothing.
Laura El-Tantawy has chosen photography as an artistic medium through which she can explore and question personal experience. Born to Egyptian parents in England, she has lived different periods of her life in the West and the Middle East. These fusions of place, culture and identity are a source of inspiration and enlightenment for the artist, but equally they are a source of unsettling anxiety and feelings of homelessness. In 2005 El-Tantawy set out to explore Egypt, searching for familiarity through happy childhood memories of growing up in Cairo. But as an eyewitness to the events of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011-2013, the plot of her project dramatically changed – “This is not the story I set out to tell”, she said in 2013. Her personal insight into these historical events is now immortalised in the book, In The Shadow of the Pyramids, which was short-listed for the prestigious Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize in 2016.
With Beyond Here is Nothing, El-Tantawy returns to her original subject matter to contemplate the feelings of rootlessness, identity and cultural clashes that underpin her search for where to call home. Shot exclusively on her iPhone she captures abstract glimpses of life on different continents – which she refers to as a “photographic meditation”. Her style is poetic and impressionistic, reminiscent through the use of blur and colour of Saul Leiter’s atmospheric photographs of 1950s New York. Her tools are light, shadow and the natural elements – which she uses to pull the viewer from the West to the East, and back again. Grey puddles, reflected clouds and fallen cherry-blossom flowers signify a moment in El-Tantawy’s London. Orange haze, palm trees and elegant colonial architecture signify a different moment in Cairo. A series of cloudscapes metaphorically hint at broader existential questions about what lies beyond any individual’s notion of home.
Laura El-Tantawy, Beyond Here Is Nothing (2017)
“There are no rules in my process. I use bleach, glue, soap and paint. I find it interesting to see how the eye reacts to different techniques overlapping each other, and want to create something that is only truly readable in the physical, analogue world.” Maya Rochat
Seen Fifteen Gallery is delighted to welcome Maya Rochat to Peckham for her first solo show in the UK. Upon our invitation, she will be transforming our gallery space into a living collage of printed and hand-painted images, video and sound. And for one night only during the opening on 1st December, the gallery will transform with an additional layer as Maya Rochat pairs with Paris-based musician, Buvette, for a live performance.
The title GIVE ME SPACE is symbolic of the artist’s frustration with the accepted boundaries of photography. Classically trained in the medium at ECAL – Ecole cantonale d’art Lausanne – Rochat has been pushing against tradition from the beginning of her career. At the heart of her practice is an intense desire to experiment with fate, and with chemicals, printing processes and installations that refuse to conform to the gallery wall. There is also an underlying reaction to living in our current image saturated times. Rochat’s intention is to invert the saturation effect – by overwhelming the viewer physically, as opposed to digitally. Many of the processes and materials on display in the gallery – flourescent spray-paint, hanging transparent banners – cannot be reproduced in their true form in the digital world. The result: a lingering question about what and how we see today.
Maya Rochat, 2016
In a timely exhibition of photography and video installations, two women artists explore identity and racial tensions in twenty-first century London.
In a project originally commissioned by Autograph ABP for The Missing Chapter series, Heather Agyepong takes inspiration from the nineteenth century Carte de Visite of Lady Sarah Forbes Bonetta. The story of Lady Forbes Bonetta is a remarkable one – brought to England as a child, this young black African girl was given as a “gift” to Queen Victoria, having been saved from the massacre that killed the rest of her family. Adopted into royal society by Queen Victoria, she grew up with privileges that only a few in Victorian England could have dreamed of. Her albumen print portrait, taken by Camille Silvy in September 1862, is currently on display in the National Portrait Gallery London. Struck by Lady Sarah’s genteel pose in this portrait, Heather Agyepong questions what life must really have been like for this woman, plucked from Africa and immersed into nineteenth century English life. What kind of comments and questions was she subjected to? How did this make her feel? What kind of emotions lay buried beneath the surface of her ladylike pose?
Heather Agyepong, Too Many Blackamoors
2016 was the year that politics imploded, from the United Kingdom abandoning the European Union to a reality TV star’s nomination for US president. To mark this, Seen Fifteen gallery plays host to Images of Power, a reactive exhibition examining the images which politicians broadcast of themselves in an attempt to win support, and the ways that artists appropriate, twist and subvert these images.
Images of Power features Spanish artist Daniel Mayrit’s You Haven’t Seen Their Faces, which scrutinises the one hundred most influential figures in the City of London. Canadian photographer Christopher Anderson’s series Stump, which consists of ruthless portraits of politicians and their supporters taken during the 2012 US election campaign. Irish photographer Mark Duffy’s Vote No.1 which records the unintentionally bizarre juxtapositions found in the electoral posters which litter the landscape at election time, and Hans Poel’s Petting Politics which illustrates the crass photo opportunities politicians undertake in order to win votes.