Prix Pictet 2019 – Victoria & Albert Museum
Prix Pictet’s predominant theme of sustainability is continued this year with the title of ‘Hope’. Now in its eighth year the positive theme allows artists a wide range of creative possibilities. Although we are bombarded with negative news on a daily basis, it is important that we sometimes focus on positive developments around the world. This could be in the form of advances in medicine, science, or falling levels of poverty.
The exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London showcases the portfolios of the twelve shortlisted artists. The winner announced on 13th November 2019 is Joana Choumali for her series Ça va aller (it will be ok). The photographs made three weeks after terror attacks in Grand Bassam on 13th March, 2016 feature the unusual addition of stitching. The stitches which she did herself ‘are a way to recover from negative emotions after the attack’ she explained. I surprised when I read thst she made the series using her iPhone.
Walking into the darkened exhibition space ‘Hope’ isn’t a would that springs to mind. The walls are grey and the feeling is subdued. The lighting is low, just enough to illuminate the prints. The first large prints I see on entering are by South African photographer Gideon Mendel and are part of his series titled Damage: A Testament of Faded Memory, 2016. The prints look like blown up 35mm negatives. The negatives have been damaged in some way, so much so that the image itself is quite hard to distinguish. I actually really like and it is an intriguing introduction to the show.
I have to admit I found the rest of the show a little bit underwhelming. I’m not sure if this is because I had earlier visited the colourful and exuberant Feast For the Eyes at The Photographers Gallery? The quality of the work is very good but a lot of it is displayed in a similar traditional way. White borders and white or wooden frames. Arranged either in grids or in a linear arrangement. I always enjoy viewing grids I’m not sure why.
Alexia Webster’s Street Studios 2011-18 seemed to best fit with this year’s theme. The popup street studios see set up in various places around the world documented in both an intimate and public way families and friends bonding and in love. The ‘fake’ front room’s Webster creates add a splash of colour and possibly a social commentary?
Lucas Foglia travelled the world and visited projects where work was being done to make a positive environmental future. It features rainforests integrated into Singaporean high rise buildings and research into air quality on the big Island of Hawaii. His collection of images are eclectic but intriguing.
Altogether a bit of a mixed bag but enjoyable none the less. I liked the scale of the prints on display, they are big and fill the space well. The wooden frames used by Ivor Prickett make a change from the usual back or white and suit his work.
How will this study visit effect my practice:
Sometimes bigger is better and the large displays at the Victoria & Albert seem to suggest that, it is a large space to fill though. I enjoyed the grid displays, it allows the artist to show more work on less wall space. Displaying some of my work as a grid could help me as my exhibition location is a bit limited space wise. I seem to be noticing a move back towards frames at recent photography exhibitions and I am thinking about framing a few of my prints for my display. I still have not settled on a preferred frame colour though. The lighting at Prix Pictet is deliberately subdued this year and it made me realise what a difference lighting makes. My chosen exhibition venue has good natural and artificial lighting being in a library. I have to consider if I need to any extra lighting and whether this is feasible.