Alex Hartley, Downfall. 6b. 83ft,** Cardross, 2007,
C-type photograph, dimensions variable.
Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.
Edinburgh Art Festival Exhibition
27 July – 21 October 2007
The Fruitmarket Gallery
45 Market Street
P +44 (0) 131 225 2383
F +44 (0) 131 220 3130
The Fruitmarket Gallery’s 2007 Edinburgh Art Festival exhibition is the first major British solo presentation of the work of Alex Hartley, a British artist whose work confronts our experience and understanding of the built and natural environments.
One of the yBa generation of artists, Hartley works primarily with photography, though often incorporating it into sculpture and installation. His practice offers an extremely original analysis of modernist and contemporary architecture and its relationship to landscape. He investigates buildings in terms of vision and the visionary, the individual and the institution, and the relationship of utopian schemes, whether successes or failures, to works of fiction.
The exhibition brings together a significant body of existing and new work. It begins on the facade of The Fruitmarket Gallery on which Hartley will make a new work that particularly exemplifies his highly individual approach. He is interested in ‘buildering’ (climbing on buildings) and has clad the Gallery in an image of itself, marked with routes up the façade that he has climbed as preparation for the exhibition. This work relates to Hartley’s putative guide book to Los Angeles, LA Climbs: Alternative Uses for Architecture, (Black Dog, 2003), a funny and curiously insightful book in which he looks at the city as surface, and through photography and topographic drawings presents landmark buildings in LA in terms of the routes a climber might take to explore them.
Inside the Gallery, other new work extends the possibilities of solo climbing as a metaphorical and actual approach to the built as well as the natural environment, with photographs of the artist tackling a variety of buildings around Scotland. These extreme explorations of the relationship an individual might form with a building are complemented by other photography-based works, including Don’t want to be part of your world, an ongoing series in which Hartley looks at the relationship and interdependence between architecture and nature, and the individual’s position with regard to both. Each work in the series takes the form of a photograph of an impressive natural wilderness into which Hartley has inserted a hand-made architectural relief. The reliefs are all models of highly individualistic buildings, often utopian in aspiration and more often than not doomed to failure.
Two major installations take on the interior architecture of The Fruitmarket Gallery, inserting photographs of unattainable, idealised modernist spaces into the fabric of the building. Untitled (Installation), 2007, offer a tantalising glimpse of an illusory space beyond the Gallery, while the monumental Case Study, 2001 is a photograph of an imaginary, idealised, domestic interior, held within a structure made of translucent glass, wood and plaster. At first glance, it seems as though one might be able to enter the space. Walking round it, however, it reveals itself more of a sculpture than a structure — a closed, tapering, inaccessible form.
Hartley’s practice examines the influence of architecture on the individual in and against the landscape in a physical and conceptual context. It offers a variety of approaches to the built environment, Hartley occupying a shifting set of roles from photographer and architectural historian to builderer, rambler, mountaineer and explorer, offering an original analysis of architecture and its relationship to landscape.