A crisp lack of clarity

Christopher Williams, Bläsing G 2000, Bläsing GmbH, Essen Model: Christoph Boland, November 15th 2010, 2010

Christopher Williams’s pictures in the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize exhibition might well be really interesting were there enough of them on show to offer some sort of clue as to the artist’s intention. Sadly though the sharpness and objectivity of the images isn’t matched by a clarity of non-visual communication and I was left idly wondering what Williams wanted to say but without any determination to go out of my way to find out. Given that I actively like conceptual art, I probably fall into the section of the audience Williams has the most hope of winning round, although I do admit that once the ‘I really can’t be bothered with this’ feeling takes hold I do tend to given in to it with indecent haste and often quite bad grace.

Fachhochschule Aachen, Fachbereich Gestaltung, Studiengang: Visuelle Kommunikation, Fotolabor für Studenten, Boxgraben 100, Aachen, November 8th, 2010, 2010

In the interests of completes though I did watch all the little films about the four artists’ work (with headphones on an everything) and I even watched Williams’s a second time because I got distracted and missed the beginning, not realising it was silent. So, what’s it all about?

Well, what the photographs and their titles do give me is a notion that this is about photography. Maybe. (The darkroom picture clearly is. The finger on the button might be.  The haystack, not so much.)

Information on the gallery website tells me that: ‘Williams has been creating images of cameras, models, vehicles and other technical apparatus for the last forty years. Alluding to and borrowing from the world of advertising, his conceptual approach continuously questions our understanding of reality as reflected and communicated to us through photographs.’ and I’m sure I read the words Cold War somewhere, which might explain the German image titles but which, in all honesty, leaves me none the wiser.

My suspicion is that the exhibition for which Williams was nominated may well have been really interesting but there simply isn’t enough to go on here. I’m all in favour of plenty of white space in the gallery but if retaining acres of white wall space means not showing enough work for the exhibition to make sense then my compromise of choice would always be more work less white. The end result of the opposite decision being made here – I assume by Williams – is that the work comes across as cold and overly serious. My overriding impression is that Williams is deliberately shutting out the audience in a way that isn’t big and isn’t clever.

In short, I wasn’t keen. Can you tell?

Bergische Bauernscheune, Junkersholz, Leichlingen, September 29th, 2009, 2010

The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize exhibition was at the Photographers’ Gallery, Ramilles Street, London W1F 7LW until 9 September 2012

1 thought on “A crisp lack of clarity

  1. I wonder if he’s trying to say something playing with opposites – specifically red and green? If so, it still leaves me feeling a little “so what” about it. That was what jumped out at me in looking at the imagery. I imagine the red and green would have really popped in a big white space. And his choice of hue for each seems equally matched, which is a little interesting. Doesn’t rock my world in any way…

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