Bleakness in Black and White: Francesca Woodman, Witkacy & Diarmait Grogan

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Perhaps it’s the bleak time of year, but I’m finding myself engrossed in black and white photography at the moment. And a particularly vein of such photography at that: give me a slow shutter speed, underlying sense of black comedy, dream-like quality and heightened emotional current and I’ll be (quite ironically) happy.

Lucky, then, that over the coming weeks there will be not one but two such exhibitions taking place in Dublin. The first, opening Thursday, is of Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz’s work at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, under the title ‘Between Honey and Ashes’. Witkacy, as he was also known, was a politically charged, emotionally disturbed, hallucinogenic drug-using, suicidal yet comic Polish existentialist, and an early master of photography. As such, I think it goes without saying his exhibition should be worth going to. (N.B. I wrote a more detailed write up of this for this month’s Totally Dublin, so pick up a copy or read my piece in it here if your interest is piqued).

Then next month, there will be Diarmait Grogan’s works on show at the Severed Head Gallery. Grogan is an exciting young Dublin-born photographer, and this will be his first solo exhibition. His hazy, black and white works capture human emotion and vivid scenes of action, yet retain an otherworldly quality.
This exhibition will open on February 11th and, guess what, you will also be able to find a better/lengthier write up of it in the FEBRUARY issue of Totally Dublin, so be sure to pick up a copy of that when it comes out too (I’ll also post it on for those that live outside of Dublin but may be interested).
However, there is one more master of bleak, black and white photography, whose works I would love to see an exhibition of. Francesca Woodman, a woman from Denver who lived to just twenty-two, pushed the boundaries of her field in her tragically short lifetime. Her haunting, surreal, dark, precocious and eccentric works have inspired legions of photographers ever since her suicide in 1981.
Woodman made heavy use of the female nude, albeit in an entirely different way to what we are used to in art history: her figures reveal a sense of fragility and vulnerability, not the overt sexuality we are accustomed to. Her approach to her medium is incredibly ahead of her time; I’d love to see what she would have gone on to do had she lived longer… such a pity.

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