Paul Eachus, Thoughts & Notes on Photoworks

I went to Paul Eachus’s Cornerhouse lecture. From the Cornerhouse website;

London-based artist Paul Eachus’ photoworks and display pieces present an irrational ordering of things, an excess of visual and referential material that refuses to be pinned down within known systems of categorization. His large-scale works are fragmentary, decentred and seemingly out-of-control.

As defined by Eachus, a “Photowork” is not just photographic documentation of his physical work, despite that being how it appears. I think his argument for the the photo work (as a concept) is to do with the abstract quality that photography can bring to his pieces; it gives him the ability to force people to look at his (otherwise) physical work one degree removed from where the work actually exists. It was also argued that the framing of his photo works is integral. Deliberately depriving the audience of being able to view the work in its totality.

A Photowork

An example of a Photowork, image taken from the Cornerhouse website.

According to the artist, these two actions are extremely important in translating his artistic intentions to the audience. Despite concentrating on his explanations and reasoning for over an hour’s worth of lecture; I never completely understood why a “photo work” was necessary. As a three dimensional physical piece, I think I would have appreciated his creations far more; I felt very much like I was being coerced into seeing things from the artists point of view. I certainly would not have arrived at his point of view if left to my own devices!

The works, I thought, were impressive examples of installation and sculpture; they were emotive, instantly creating an uneasy edge on sight and with complexity till the cows come home. Intricate and meticulous. Why, in that case, does the artist insist that his work is made to be viewed in the once-removed form of a photograph? (All-be-it a very lovely, well lit, medium format photograph – but still a photograph!) The strangest thing I found was that there was one exception. He showed us documentary photos (not photo works) of one piece that was designed to be an installation rather than to be photographed and then exhibited; in conceptual terms it seemed to be identical to the photo works.

What is the photo work about? I couldn’t quite figure it out. For me; it definately didn’t add to my enjoyment of the artwork. Maybe forcing the context by using photography is a gimmick, maybe it is a master stroke that I completely missed. Possibly it gives the artist an excuse to talk at length about its implications in order to “sucker” the audience with it. Maybe it is a good career move, photographs are much easier to reproduce than a large installation! Who knows?

For me, two key points are in the forefront of my mind; Delivery of his presentation or lecture was unpleasant. He simply read a prepared document (which came across as an entry in an encyclopedia) was not engaging. Secondly, managing to talk and write about his work in such a complex fashion seemed to be more important than the work itself. Is that a good thing or bad? This guy is obviously successful, to some extent, is it just because he is painting an idealogical picture or because of the merit of his work. A balance between the two must always be drawn.