In Dalston Anatomy, Venice-born artist Lorenzo Vitturi documents Ridley Road Market, an East End institution which is being gentrified out of existence (when it vanishes he can always come west – no chance of that ever happening to Shepherds Bush Market.) Vitturi won this year’s Photography Prize at Hyères for the project, and the exhibition in TPG is just a selection of pieces, including installations that have been made specially for the show.
The premise sounds a bit ho-hum – street scenes of vanishing London and still lives of salt cod and papayas are done to death by art students and The Guardian‘s “Your Pictures” page. But the reality is great – pretty, witty, AND thought-provoking. The photographs are hyperreal, with rich, even lighting and saturated colour, and they provoke a wealth of associations with the history of still life art.
There are echoes of classical still life painting, like the “pronk” paintings of imported fruits, porcelain, and Venetian glass popular in Amsterdam in the 17th century. They also reminded me of Arcimboldo, the 16th century Italian painter of fantasy heads made from vegetables and flowers. A more up-to-date reference is Irving Penn’s still life shoots (the last two images above are by Penn and Arcimboldo – see what I mean?)
The scale of many of the pieces adds to their impact – some are a metre and a half high, or more, set on the floor or balanced on bits of wood. Which brings in the idea of the cargo cult: one piece in the exhibition is a sort of altar made of packing crates and artificial grass, with Vitturi’s photographs displayed like icons or offerings on it.
It’s not a huge show, but I spent ages wandering around it, making mental notes to read up more on Flemish still life painting, and came away with a big grin on my face. (Though oddly enough I don’t have the slightest desire to go visit Ridley Road Market.)
Lorenzo Vitturi: Dalston Anatomy, The Photographers’ Gallery, London (until October 19)
© Fiona Hayes 2014