I came across Chris Dorley-Brown pictures at the recent Salon des Refuses (see previous post) organised by Myrdle Court Press. The dyptychs presented were somehow obvious to the way we can explore the shift of the landscape. This practice has been used on several occasions across the continents and they always tend to provoke some kind of nostalgia. Chris' images certainly can evoke such a feeling especially if you have lived or known the areas concerned. But to me there was something else that made those comparative displays so attractive. There was no sense of idyllic past in the originals he found. He simply collected images that simply described formally what the urban looked like. A road and a perspective that give us an indication of the volumes and buildings and the flux within this grid. People are barely present but they tell us about the way they dress up, the trades and the mood of the street life. There are no attention to details as such of trying to emphasize on some icons of the time. It is about capturing the "real" experienced with no effusion or demagogy. That genuine approach has been followed intuitively by Chris with the new urban landscape.
Let's explain here that Chris' inspiration came as he searched through local archives of how the East-End looked like. The first image (top) on the left is from 1948 and the second one (below) is from 1958. It is always exciting to be able to discover such records. And as you can see sometimes the view doesn't change much but also eventually it becomes an alien vision from its past. A bit like today really with what is happening in the Lea Valley area.
What I find the most significant in Chris' intention is his love for the urban landscape, not only as a resident but also as an observer. Very few people have this ability to feel and trying to make sense of there surroundings and most especially when they live in a megacity such as London. In those juxtapositions we have a strong sense of human actions, desires and needs. There is a statement to our aspirations and results in the way we place ourselves and interact with each other. The dyptychs are organic in the interstice that separates them where time has passed. And that non-visible time make those compositions so reflective and revealing. I wouldn't say that they aim to express criticism towards an actual state but they make us realise of the time in between. That abstraction of time within the compositions have a much stronger relevance to our condition as inhabitants, citizens and human beings. They question the way we think and act by presenting two different representations of the very same place.
(Dace, Back, Pair 1986-2011)
The last dyptych is a more recent one but somehow it doesn't really feel like it, or I could say also that the two previous ones do not seem to be that old anyway. There is this amazing gaze in the black and white definition that can take the viewer in a non-identifiable era. And somehow this left image could have been more recent than 1986. In that last presentation the industrial feels in suspension. We can obviously associate the obsolete to the date but the mist and compact grey roofing tell us that something is about to happen. Those originals have the power and tremendous ability to tell us objectively what it looked like. But I would say that they wouldn't be as strong as they are now presented with this addition of Chris' images. Not only his dedication to the topography is genuine but most importantly his love for the meaning of space, and therefore our role within that frame. The camera and the intentions are here the key elements to that successful body of work. Chris' synthetic comparatives are a praise to contemplation on a grand time scale.
Next time I will present the second part of Chris' work where colour dyptychs have been produced on a shorter time frame. Despite the recent juxtaposition the results are still quite breathtaking.