Horticulture
Solo Exhibition,
Clare Charnley Castlefield Gallery, Manchester

1998


CREATIVE CAMERA AUGUST 1998

Clare Charnley's latest body of work (Horticulture Part 1: Discount Flights, Horticulture Part 2) furthers an uneasy relationship between the natural and the cultural, the object and photography. It is as much a discourse or a series of questions on the ambiguities of our representations of the world, as it is a meditation on the conflict between inner and outer meanings, the invasion of the interior by the wild imaginings of the beyond. Charnley's images constantly tantalise representational certainties. The photograph as evidence is transformed into the site of seductive metaphor. Neither the photographs nor the objects in the show respect our expectations, but brim over with additional meaning, sometimes linguistic, often poetic, playing on the literal.


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Materials:Lawyers' sealing wax

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Materials:Rose briars


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Materials:Rose thorns

Our expectations are confounded because, despite the simplicity that is Charnley's hallmark, many of the pieces here break the traditional metonymic chain of photographic meaning. Her supplement of metaphor in the image raises a number of possibilities. Yet while there are issues raised around 'the chaotic borderlands of nature and culture, the rational and irrational' (to quote the press release), Charnley is not pushing a particular line. She leaves us to make sense of her stage set. Her own metaphor for photography is that she has made a body of work that engages less with the photographic subjects, more with all the 'paraphernalia' of the studio set, the use of nature by culture and its constant re-presentation. And in each work, despite the recurring motifs of thorns, tears, lead casts and power cables, there is surprise, as objects pretend to be other than what they appear either at the level of surface or the depth of discomfort they engender in their messages about photographs and objects.


Graham Evans is a photographer and lecturer