After a couple of weeks the relentless rounds of shows that make up Free Range can start to blur into one another. Something I always notice as I drift from room to room is how the work I like seems to cluster in groups around certain courses; is it the quality of the teaching ay those colleges or do the students drive each other on? I found one such seam of work running through show put on by the graduates from Rochester, UCA.
The intial highlight for me was Daniel Warnecke’s ‘Subject to Impression’. A row of small vitrines containing brightly coloured figurines; a red-bearded hipster, in skinny jeans and blue blazer, slightly sinister looking twins stand side-by-side in matching dresses and knee-high white socks, a guy wearing a parka tightly gripping the hood which is pulled up around his face. There was a strange softness to their features – like a hand coloured black and white print – I guessed they were 3D prints. They all seemed to exude a sense of cool, and attitude absent from pretty much anything else I’d seen, but they also seemed naggingly familiar. It was only later that I stumbled on the rest of his work, on the opposite side of the wall the figures had been laid out along. Large close-up photographic portraits taken from the figures – and of course, in a moment of forehead slapping obviousness I realised all the figurines had been taken from iconic portraits – both photographic and painted. I actually found this slightly disappointing – the characters went from being fantastically observed character studies to just people ripped from the pages of an art book. But the photographs themselves still worked really well, I was slightly obsessed by the texture of the plastic, almost like wood grain. A large, dark portrait of a man in a black roll neck – groan, Hemingway (horrific memories of having to read The Old Man and The Sea start rising up again) – the slickness of the surface looks almost like sweat.
So I found myself in two minds about the work – I loved the use of the 3D printing – the figures felt like bright, modern sculpture and the photographs accentuated the strange almost haunting fuzziness to their features, like blurry stills from a videotape. The photographs really explored these qualities, and this dialogue between three-and-two dimensional representation. But somehow the need to reference art history seemed a bit unnecessary, it felt like it was there for some sort of artistic justification – but really the world just doesn’t need yet another Magritte pastiche, and the visual pun of the granny smith sticker instead of an apple floating in front of the businessman’s face felt a real misstep.