Corn Exchange Gallery, Leith, Edinburgh
Every month or so, an interesting thing drops through my letterbox from the Corn Exchange Gallery. Run from within design company Navyblue, the gallery explores weird and wonderful formats for its catalogues and private view cards; one memorable card invited me to put soil on it, water it, and watch it grow. This month’s novelty was a stylish scratch card, allowing me to scrape the wallpaper off a stately old wall, from an image by young photographer Jonathan Lynch. Though it enticed me down to the Leith gallery, the cheerful little invitation belies the restrained gravitas of the Newcastle artist’s work. At the heart of the exhibition lies something which is not there: the human being. People are conspicuous by their absence in the series of abandoned rooms called An Essay Of Emptiness. There is no furniture, there are no telephones connected to the phone points; all connections to humanity, save a few bumps, stains and scrapes on the wallpaper, are gone.
In some images, like a classic Vermeer, light reaches in from the left through a half-seen window, but there is no-one for it to reveal; no small human drama for it to touch. Instead, it creeps across the worn floorboards and falls into the cracks and splinters in the dado rails. One isolated image hangs at the top of the stairs, where wooden floorboards beneath your feet mirror those in the photograph. You find yourself looking at a photograph of a wall, mounted on a wall, at a similar distance in each.
Although it’s impossible to put your finger on how or where, Lynch has been busy with digital manipulation tools, and the result is uncanny. It’s either the unnaturally high point of view, or some digital sleight of hand, but you can become rather disembodied as you stare into these spaces.
As the liberal photoshopping suggests, Lynch’s aim is not to record specific places; in fact we are given no clues as to where the rooms belong. Some suggest historical stately homes, others might be the house of a person just died, the room stripped of all but a carpet past its use by date. Either way, the people for whom these rooms were significant have gone, and what remains has lost the meaning it once had.
The same is true of the photographs themselves in Lynch’s second series, Absence. In contrast to the artist’s own large-scale images, these are pocket-sized found photographs, dated snapshots, reworked by the artist. All of them originally centred around people, but Lynch has expertly removed them, leaving only a bit of lens flare here, and a shadow there.
The result is poignant. These photographs, by the time they reached the artist’s hands, had already lost their significance. Separated from their subjects, and from the people who knew them, they were lost memories. Time (and the artist) has now closed in on them and erased them entirely.
A final installation makes this point all the more brutally. Scores of found black and white photographs dangle from threads, a cascade of gently twirling, forgotten memories. Their figures have been crudely cut out with scissors, leaving holes in the images. The work is emotionally deadened; the photographs rendered useless. The backgrounds, only ever accessories to the people now gone, fail to take centre stage.
This emotional constriction might put Lynch at risk of losing his audience, were it not for the faultless execution. The visual richness of the Emptiness series is a soothing dock leaf to the nippy conceptual attack of the Absence works. Nicely done.
Catrìona Black, Herald
Working across photography, sculpture and drawing, my work involves creating images which question and interrogate notions of memory and loss, together forming a visual tapestry of discreet, interwoven moments in time.
When looking at photographs that have been left behind, they become subject to enquiry and curiosity. Their appearance, identity and function changes as they undergo a metamorphosis; from indexical trace to an anonymous object. It is this interchangeable state of the photograph which my work explores.