Sunday, February 20, 2005

Defaced Portraits

Stories from Russia: The David King Collection @ The Photographers' Gallery (5 Great Newport Street).

Hung on the walls of the Gallery's cafe are several pairs of portraits. One in each pair is an ordinary black-and-white portrait of Uzbek politicians in the 1930's, and the other the same portrait with a face defaced by black ink.

A Soviet photographer took photographs of Uzbek communists for a book that commemorated these people's contribution to the Soviet Union. A few years after its publication, Stalin began the Great Purge, which saw many of these figures in the book arrested and shot dead. Scared of being arrested for having photos of purged figures, the photographer defaced his own photographs by black ink.

Half a century later, David King visited this Soviet guy's house, discovering the book with many portraits blacked out. He blew up these pictures, both the original and the defaced, and made this photo exhibition.

Although there was no intention of creating a piece of art in the Soviet photographer's mind, this exhibition succeeds in delivering some message to viewers. Very clever.


The other exhibition, the photographs taken by Melanie Manchot, is not impressive at all, though this one was the reason why I visited the Photographers' Gallery today.


Leaving the Gallery, I stopped by at Bureau, a staionery store nearby (10 Great Newport Street). Although it mainly sells stationery items, it also offers a bunch of "different" stuff. (I bought a designer's bin here in the past.) I found a cool canvas drawing by an artist called Douglas M Black. I want to hang it on the wall of my bedroom, but it costs around 300 quid... (Here's another work by the same artist.)


Then I took a stroll in Chinatown. Since some months ago, you see a set of weird paintings on the walls of a little construction site at the east end of Chinatown (48 Gerrard Street). Here's one of them.


On the way home, I was stuck in the tube between stations for 10 minutes due to delay occuring in the Central Line. A normal life in London. (I'm not sarcastic. Every tube station has, since two years ago, had a board indicating how well each Underground line is operating. Initially, if the service had no problem, the board said, "Normal Service." But someone might have complained of its ambiguous meaning. Now the board says, "Good Service," if the service is operating with no problem.)

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