Monday night saw the opening of “I Think We Should See Other People”, an exhibition of works by Graham Hutchinson at the Norman Rea Gallery. The exhibition features clusters of collages that contain manipulated images of humans, with a particular emphasis on the removal and replacement of facial features. Hutchinson says that the modifications to the original images are “an attempt to create new narratives, contexts and realities”. The materials Hutchinson uses to produce images are of a raw quality: brown paper, old books, newspaper cuttings and vintage magazines, collected from flea markets, charity shops and his uncle’s waste-paper recycling business.
Depersonalisation is a theme that runs through Hutchinson’s artwork, made especially apparent by the absent faces (‘Dream About My Old Life’ is a particular favourite of this reviewer; the use of numbers in the piece suggests a replacement of humanity with statistics). Hutchinson says that, “by taking the face out of the equation the work becomes more open” and this forces the viewer to pay more attention to the distortions present in the pieces. The use of space has also been carefully considered in this exhibition; the images are located in the corners of the room, creating a jarring distance between each cluster. This is perhaps an attempt to create a sense of hollowness within the room, yet at times it simply felt empty.
There is also a tense sexual nature present in many of the images, some depicting scenes that are suggestive of rape and torture. Hutchinson explains that he is, “drawn to the rituals, tensions and absurdity that occurs between the two sexes”. His artwork seems to go further than this, as violent sexual imagery is juxtaposed with depictions of the natural world; faces are often replaced with images of animals, with antlers or horns added, that often creates an unsettling awareness of the deliberate proximity of these two themes.
Hutchinson’s use of colour is particularly striking; the ‘vintage’ feel of the cuttings is often juxtaposed with flashes of reds and blues, while many of the images retain a simple black and white palette. The sepia tones of the base images create a feeling of antiquity in the viewer, yet this sensation is sometimes marred by an attempt by the artist to locate the images in a particular time frame; the pieces that work best are the ones that transcend particular stages in history. When asked why he agreed to exhibit at the Norman Rea Gallery, Hutchinson simply replied, “I will exhibit anywhere, really”, indicating that his artwork is concerned with people, not places. The exhibition is well worth a visit for anyone wishing to be intrigued by Hutchinson’s layering of human emotions in a unique setting.