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Yorkshire artists challenge photography in new exhibition

Four young artists critique the role and meaning of photography in a forthcoming exhibition of new artwork at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds.

Art Exhibition: The Object of Photography
7 April - 19 June 2009

Press preview: Monday, 6 April, 2009, 2-4pm Opening Reception: Tuesday, 7 April, 2009, 6-8pm

The exhibition 'The Object of Photography' runs from 7 April - 30 June 2009. The Gallery is open Mon-Fri, 10-5pm, and admission is free.

Yorkshire-based artists Ignaz Cassar, Hondartza Fraga, Joe Mawson and Andrew Warstat investigate the role and nature of photography in diverse media, including drawing, sculpture and, naturally, photographic prints. Their playful treatment of the medium show there is much more to photography than meets the eye.

In our media-saturated world, we often take little heed of the construction and meaning of photographs.  Leeds-based Italian artist Ignaz Cassar's work emerges from a four-year study into the subject. Cassar explores what a photograph might mean if it cannot be seen.  In his series 'Fields', he overlays photographic negatives onto positive prints of local Yorkshire landscapes. The resulting slightly eerie, black-on-black prints shimmer as the viewer moves around them.

Leeds artist Joe Mawson is interested in how photographs can change the meaning of events. Using toy models, he painstakingly recreates scenes of disasters, including the 2001 Selby Rail Crash near Great Heck, Yorkshire, or the 1988 Lockerbie crash in Scotland.  He then photographs his models in highly saturated colour.  The images look at once fake and hyper-real, and call attention to our society's need to analyse and find meaning in such events.

Andrew Warstat also focuses on the meaning of disasters in images. The Leeds artist isolates stills from an early Laurel & Hardy film, showing a 'comic disaster' where Stan Laurel just misses getting hit by a streetcar.  After doctoring the images to mask the approaching car, the scene re-animated suddenly appears uneasy and forbidding, with a ghostly trace of threat behind the actor.

An interest in the illusionism possible with photography also guides Sheffield-based Hondartza Fraga. The Spanish-born artist photographs television static on old television screens, which are blown up and enhanced so that they resemble images of outer space.  Poking fun at the power and authority we give to science, she also playfully explores how our viewing experience can change depending on what we think we're looking at.

The exhibition will include several free, public events for visitors to engage with the work, including an artist roundtable discussion and hands-on workshops about photography. An exhibition catalogue, with new essays about the artists, will be available for sale from the Gallery shop.

"We're so pleased to be showing exciting new work by young up-and-coming artists in the region," said exhibition curator Layla Bloom. "We hope the artworks get people talking and thinking more deeply about the images they see every day on the news or in advertising. These images are everywhere, so it's a topic everyone can get involved in and have their say about."

The exhibition has been supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

For further information:

Please contact the University of Leeds Press Office on +44 (0)113 343 4031 or email

Notes to editors:

    Heck no. 5, by Joe Mawson, 2008, 90 x 60 cm, diasec mounted digital print. © The Artist 2. Constellation II, The Space In Absence Of Image, by Hondartza Fraga, 2007, 75 x 100 cm, lambda print. © Hondartza Fraga 2007
    Layla Bloom, Exhibitions Officer
    t: 0113 343 2777 e: m: 0772835 0054
    10.00- 17.00, Monday-Friday
    Admission: FREE

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