Bleak reflections

Deserted industrial hinterlands can be eerie, thrilling places to the passer-by who stumbles upon the seamy side of civilisation, where all the workings show.

In her new exhibition, Cities, at Leeds’ Brass Gallery, photomontage artist Helen Saunders seeks to focus on the feelings of awe, vertigo and loneliness that these forbidden landscapes can provoke. Digitally dissecting and reconstructing her landscapes, Saunders creates inconsistencies such as reflections that don’t match their sources and strange shifts in perspective that conspire to produce a sense of unease. Her leaden skies and soaring slag heaps occasionally evoke a modern-day Mordor.

Saunders’ work resonates with that of architectural image-maker GMJ, whose digitally enhanced photomontages depict a London ravaged by the physical and social effects of climate change. Showing at the Museum of London from next week, London Futures is a follow-up to an original 2009 exhibition by GMJ duo Didier Madoc-Jones and Robert Graves. New pictures show ice-skaters at Tower Bridge and Parliament Square transformed into a rice paddy. In another image, iconic office tower the Gherkin is transformed into high-density housing after the collapse of the global economy.

GMJ’s work creates a simple, coherent world with a clear narrative, following in the wake of dystopian movies such as 28 Days Later and District 9. In contrast,Saunders’ more reflective images lift the curtain on civilisation’s backstage, joining a cultural tradition that extends back to Plato’s Republic.

Helen Saunders’ Cities exhibition is on at Brass Gallery, Leeds, from 6 October to 7 December London Futures is on at the Museum of London from 1 October to 6 March 2011

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