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Traces (Influences from W.G. Sebald)


Traces is an exhibition by artists Leigh Chorlton, Tim Le Breuilly, and Robin Wu, who have put together work influenced by the writings of W.G. Sebald. Each have their own personal interpretation and influences from his writing, which in turn is imbued in their drawing, painting, and printmaking.

Using a kind of holistic journalism/social scientist approach to writing, W.G Sebald’s books meander through peoples stories, architecture, ecology, and history, threads that speak of an overall human destruction. The books are melancholic in tone and have an outsider perspective, examining identity and belonging through displaced lives (as in ‘The Emigrants’) and from the Narrators perspective (Rings of Saturn, Austerlitz) looking in on the development of humanity as though from a distant standpoint.

Sebald uses photography in his books to make subtle links that create visual threads. All the images are black and white, generally grainy, and sometimes difficult to make out, becoming black splurges against white overexposed sections. Sebald himself scanned his images through a photocopier until the quality depleted, relinquishing the power of the photograph as a ‘document’ or upholder of the real. Photography’s strength lies in its misleading power to convince us of its irrefutability, as archival photographs can be faked, whereas drawings and paintings are primary documents and cannot be faked.

If this were a photography exhibition the work would likely be about the way photographs both document and dissemble reality, like the images employed in Sebald’s books, though in using traditional artists materials this obvious connection is redundant, and therefore so is the connection between Sebald’s photographs and our own documentation. The transference of meaning from writing to representation becomes more oblique, the results perhaps more difficult to measure, and unless copying or being literal, of which these artists are not, the links remain allusive, fragile, modest, provisional.

Sebald’s influence on artists is far reaching. The Documentary “Patience” made in 2012 by director Grant Gee (Joy Division) about Sebald’s book “The Rings of Saturn” has contributions from artists and film-makers including Tacita Dean, Robert MacFarlane, Sir Andrew Motion, Rick Moody, Iain Sinclair and Marina Warner, all espousing the influence that Sebald has had on their work. This exhibition is a small contribution highlighting the influence Sebald has had on these three artists.

Leigh Chorlton has exhibited in London through the Cynthia Corbett gallery and was part of Glasgow International in 2010 with Solo show “Retro Renaissance”. He also set up and runs Whitespace, a gallery in Gayfield Square.

Tim Le Breuilly is currently on a residency at Fettes College, he has previously been shortlisted for the John Moores painting prize. He has also contributed curatorially to exhibitions at Talbot Rice gallery following the success of ‘Sunbear’ an artist-run gallery initiated with colleagues that exhibited internationally acclaimed artists including a Turner prize nominee.

Robin Wu has shown work in Edinburgh and London including a solo show at Leith school of Art in 2011. He has studied at The Princes Drawing School, Leith School of Art and has a BA Hons in Graphic Design from Camberwell College of Art.

From the website of Edinburgh’s Whitespace.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. jmc #

    Thanks Terry. There’s currently an exhibition inspired by Austerlitz – photographs by Karen Stuke – at the Wapping Project in the East End of London, with associated events and readings…

    October 15, 2013
  2. jmc #

    Sorry, forgot the link!
    or (this one needs some ingenuity to navigate!)

    October 15, 2013

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