Sunday February 14th I had the pleasure of opening Gavin Blake's Immaculate Projections exhibition at the Light Gallery. Immaculate Projections , in my opinion, is Gavin's seminal work. It is the beautiful convergence of a loose energetic idea and the resulting, engaging powerful photographs.
The title is partially obvious, they are projections in that the subject has an image projected on their body. The images are typically well known photographs or paintings, and the facial features of the subjects are carefully aligned. This creates a triality where, depending on your focus, one or the other can be identified, and a powerful combination of the both dominates.
They are also projections in the sense that you can project your own opinion on them. Gavin has purposefully left the works untitled to encourage the viewer to project their own opinion. I see subjects tackled such as gender interchange, the realities of aging, the nature of innocence, capitalism, religion..it is all there for you to discover.
I asked Gavin why are they 'immaculate', and he talked about the nature of aligning the projections, each subject consumed a roll of 120 film or more, and on each subject only one frame really worked. They are immaculate in the alignment of the images, the slightest movement destroyed the illusion.
Referring back to the projected nature of these works, 25 years ago, I printed many of these works that are hanging in this show. We used our DeVeer 508H enlarger to project the negative images on the wall in our mural room. The 50inch (1270mm) wide paper was held on the wall with magnets. It is quite a production hand printing such large works, but that was how we made them.
25 years ago, I had just completed my apprenticeship as a mural printer, it is quite an art form. We struggled with everything, from sharpness to dust spots, to burning and dodging for hours on one print, keeping the paper flat, mounting the paper on the wall without damaging the large expensive sheets, working always in pitch darkness, stretch-taping the film flat, cutting the paper off the roll in the dark, every aspect of the process was a hurdle to possibly fall at.
As a mural printer, your attention was always on perfection. At each stage everything would have to go well, so the cumulated affect of all of the things that could go wrong would be minimised. Such huge magnification puts a microscope on everything. Often we were frustrated when we received poor quality negatives, or duplicate slides to work from. I can feel myself clenching at the thought of it all.
So when Gavin walked in 25 years ago, carrying images with the grain of a slide film copied old photo, overlaid on a 120 film grain, and a relaxed attitude to all of this perfection I had been peddling, I was subverted. Gavin and I worked together in the dark room over a couple of weeks to produce the show. It was the first time we had welcomed in a collaboration, where the artist guided our printing as we executed, it was so successful, we still encourage this process.
Immaculate Projections was so amazing to me at the time, here was something where the image quality was not about edge to edge sharpness and perfection of colour etc, it was about the idea. And the idea was executed brilliantly.
It changed me. It revealed another path that is much more fun, and much more democratic, I began to understand art.
I am thrilled to see the C-type silver-halide prints still looking great after 25 years, they pack a punch, and in the intimate space of the Light Gallery, they overwhelm you. I was moved seeing them again, and encourage you all to make the journey to visit Gavin Blake's Immaculate Projections.
Immaculate Projections can be seen at the Light Gallery until February 28th, with an artist talk Saturday February 27th at 2pm.