Life’s little mistakes

Matthew Valentine takes a look at the current exhibition at the Dazed & Confused Gallery and finds that art and free beer make a perfect match.

Style magazine Dazed & Confused, has, given its name, a suitably relaxed attitude to the opening parties of exhibitions held on the ground floor of its Old Street offices in London. A call to add a colleague to the guest list is, explains a member of staff, not really necessary. “We’re pretty relaxed about these things,” she drawls. “Everybody’s welcome.”

Such an attitude can only be applauded. Bringing otherwise hard-to-see artists to the public’s attention is commendable – giving the public a free drink as well is virtually saintly. The parties are invariably quite busy.

Cinematographer Christopher Doyle is the latest subject to attract the Dazed & Confused staff’s attention, and his work forms the current exhibition. A former Australian merchant seaman, he settled in Taiwan after studying art history in the US, eventually moving to Hong Kong. The exhibition coincides with the UK launch of his film work on director Wong Kai-Wai’s film Happy Together – a Cannes prize-winner.

The pictures on show at Old Street are not, in the literal sense, moving ones, though. Doyle, who has also published five books of his photographs, has instead created photo-collages, mixing stills of his film works with his private photographs. Glimpses of legs and shoulders rub with coffee tables and bright carpets, raw neon with sunsets.

“My images are the unforeseen consequences of small mistakes. They pile up like unfulfilled promises, clamouring for attention and consent. I’ve got to get them out of the home, get them streetwise, teach them to swim, flush them out,” says Doyle. Well, it’s a free world and artists are allowed – even expected – to give quotes which might qualify for Private Eye’s Pseud’s Corner.

Doyle’s work isn’t easy on the eye. The collages involve large areas of black, reflective under gallery lights because of the gloss paper they’re printed on, broken up by harshly lit photographic stills. Something in the images brings to mind a dark, Blade Runner-like futuristic vision.

The “small mistakes”, which Doyle mentions, are openly visible in his work. Serial numbers from the camera’s film run across the edge of the collages, and a number of the images are blurred and out of focus. The collages could almost be the result of a dazed and confused weekend with a camera in Amsterdam – an impression enhanced by the faint familiarity of some of the snatched images.

Either through film posters or through a Barry Norman review, the images give the impression of having been seen before, like the pictures taken with disposable cameras at office parties.

Other viewers’ opinions of the exhibition were mixed. On reading that they were viewing an exhibition of mistakes, the general reaction was “hmm, yes”, a non-committal answer which can speak volumes. Most were more concerned, given the free-flowing beer, with the lack of a working toilet.

Doyle’s work could be the perfect art for a party, especially just before a long Bank Holiday, in that it establishes a good lost weekend feeling without the hangover.

The Christopher Doyle Exhibition continues at the Dazed & Confused Gallery, 112-116 Old Street, London EC1 until 6 May.

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