At the opulent Mallett gallery in Ely House, Dover Street, London, a contemporary photography exhibition ‘Opening the Shutters’ is on until 21 December. Its display is a collaboration between Mallett and The Wapping Project on Bankside, an independent gallery specifically focused on photography. ‘Opening the Shutters’ features seven remarkable photographers: Elina Brotherus, Jacqueline Hassink, and Peter Marlow, Edgar Martins, Paolo Reversi, Mitra Tabrizian and Thomas Zanon-Larcher, each with a distinctive trademark style and subject matter.
Ely House (1772-76), is an impressive building, from its exterior ‘Roman’ rustication to the sweeping grand staircase at the end of the wide entrance hall. What impressed me was how comfortably the contemporary photographs in this exhibiton fitted a unique location, the palatial eighteenth century former home of the Bishop of Ely, Edmund Keene (1714-81). The house was designed by the Bank of England architect Sir Robert Taylor (1714-88). Mallett took up residence in 2012.
FOCUS ON ONE SUBJECT
Stepping inside one is welcomed into the beautiful entrance hall with a series of large-scale photographs by Italian-born Thomas Zanon-Larcher. One is a stunning portrait Charlotte Rampling, Rue Saint-Martin, Paris 3e, 2010, which hangs above the neo-classical fireplace.
The first reception room is the former dining room of the bishop, the Red Room, where prestigious portraits would be hung. Here photographs by fashion photographer Paolo Roversi (b.1947, Ravenna), focus on one subject, his model Guinevere, in studies of her over a period of twenty years. The rich furbishment of this room with a wealth of antiques sold by Mallett could overwhelm individual pieces but Roversi’s use of lighting, sharp colour, and black and white draw the eye to each photographic work.
Lining the long, wide and grand entrance hall is a series of quite different portraits, this time by English photojournalist Peter Marlow (b.1952). They are of cathedral interiors from Birmingham. Blackburn and Bradford to Wells, Winchester, Worcester and York. All forty-two are displayed along the length of the hall and in the semi-circular bays leading to the staircase and upper floors. Marlow’s book The English Cathedral, 2012, also on display, won an Observer Design Award. It catalogues the series and was considered by acclaimed photographer Martin Parr to be one of the best photobooks of 2012.
THE MOOD CHANGES
From here one ascends a beautiful staircase. On the upper floor the mood changes to confront the harshness of war in large-scale works by Iranian photographer Mitra Tabrizan. She has documented the isolation of individuals dispersed through war in a series ‘Border 2005-2006’. In The long wait, a lone woman sits and waits with suitcase packed. The sudden news that her husband has been killed in action leaves her with nowhere to go. This work, displayed at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition won the 2013 Royal Academy Rose Award for Photography. Also on display are two further works from the series Deadly affair, and Road to nowhere.
Nearby, in the Venetian room two works by Portuguese photographer Edgar Martins (b.1977), are the result of his collaboration with the European Space Agency. This is their first exposure in the UK and they are alone worth a visit to ‘Opening the Shutters’ exhibition. Martins was given access to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Russia. The result is a unique series of photographs. Astronaut dressing room, Star City, Russia, 2013, reveals how the helmeted space suits of astronauts are kept when not in use, laid out like empty bodies on long, open shelves. With them the space gloves are placed in line. There seems to be one missing. It adds an informal human touch to the scientific, clinical environment. On the wall opposite Pressurised suit by Soyuz training module, Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, Star City Russia, 2013, was taken over a period of several hours. Martins’s addition of flash during the process creates a flat two-dimensional appearance to a clearly three-dimensional room with its space-age equipment.
Leaving this room, not to be missed is Finnish-born Elina Brotherus (b.1972) enigmatic self-portrait. Brotherus book, also on display, The Artist and Her Model was published by Le Caiilou Bleu in 2012. In the last and most luxurious room, a palatial drawing room, photographs by Jaqueline Hassink (b.1966, Netherlands), line the walls. Hassink is a Dutch visual artist and lecturer in conceptual photography at Harvard University. She has created a series of works ‘View Kyoto’. On display at Mallett are six large-scale views of Zen Temples dating from 2004 to 2011.
‘Opening the Shuttters’ is on view at Mallett, at Ely House, 37 Dover Street, London W1S 4NJ, until 21 December, 2013. Opening times are Monday-Friday: 9.30am -6pm; Saturday: 11am-4pm. It is a ‘must-see’ if you are in London. More details at: