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Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Robin Maddock @ TJ Boulting, London


“Maddock’s views and snatches of life are both surreal and individual. He has the enviable ability to turn nothing much into something quite profound.” - Martin Parr

Opening tonight at TJ Boulting, is Robin Maddock's God Forgotten Face, an exhibition in conjunction with the book of the same name, published by Trolley, which examines aspects of the everyday life in Plymouth, a port town still bearing the scars of the Blitz.

The exhibition showcases both key images from the book as well as new additions, taken more recently. In the words of gallery director, Hannah Watson, these have the effect of “introducing a slight shift to a lighter and more lyrical interpretation of the city.”

In her press release for the show she goes on to say: “After two years spent living in the town, where he has had family all his life, Maddock achieves a familiar interaction with his subjects, visible through his portraits in night clubs and pubs, and in the witnessing of the various goings on down at the sea front or in the local rec. In the misty early morning a nun stops to call her dog, whilst later a police forecourt is bathed in light and transported to a sunny LA; Maddock’s insight into the city is at once affectionate and optimistic in outlook, but stamped with his own aesthetic and curiosity.

In the book Owen Hatherley writes with a similar affection In Praise of Blitzed Cities, citing that the negative and concrete environs that come into most people’s minds when they think of Plymouth are in fact overlooking its “shabby, ad hoc vitality that most heritage cities would die for.” As a town, Plymouth’s past has been one of ongoing economic and cultural isolation since the shrinking of the Navy. Now it reflects more a broader England in decline, whilst all the post-modern ironic contradictions of the evolving new economies are present; ‘Francis Drake’ is a shopping mall, and what was the ‘Royal Sovereign’ pub is now a ‘Firkin Doghouse’. 

His childhood memories of the place are also challenged by more adult quotidian realities of Maddock’s time there, and his own preconceptions; the journey’s question shifting from, ‘What am I doing here?’ to the more telling, ‘What am I, here?’ The ‘God Forgotten Face’ of the title, originally derived from the 1945 Philip Larkin poem Plymouth, and the words “Last kingdom of a gold forgotten face...”, perhaps coming to represent his own personal account as a photographer finding himself changed in the face of the subject he had returned to find.” 

The exhibition runs until 2 June 2012.