georgeharrisphoto reviews

The Waiting Room
George Harris
Bar Lisi, Sadler Gate
Part of the Format 05 Season of Photography in Derby

Bar Lisi’s padded leather walls and swish yet calm interior seemed the perfect venue for the desolate yet emotionally loaded photographic images by Derby based photographer, George Harris. The café/bar proved to be a good setting for images the artist had captured as a result of a research project with a local estate agent. The minimal interior was the ideal setting for Harris’ studies of empty or deserted dwelling places.

An image that particularly stayed in mind was ‘Ode to Themroc’ where a window appears to have been eaten away from the wall exposing the scar of the brickwork. This gaping slice was reminiscent of the purposeful holes of American installation artist and photographer, Gordon Matta Clark. This ‘framing’ aspect also offered another layer into Harris’ own way of working. In the small catalogue provided, Harris stated that each work is like a ‘square or panoramic cut.’ The Waiting Room series certainly provided insights into many diverse slices of different people’s lives.

In some of the pictures it was easy to imagine who might have lived in the houses – or what type of future occupant the décor might appeal too. In other images it proved more difficult because of the more evident emptiness of the setting. For example, House Nine looked like the deserted TV set of an episode of Terry and June – whereas it was impossible to tell who might have lived in House Three. A tiled floor and a gas fire gave me no clues - and yet it did not prevent me from making up a story in my own head to fit the environment.

This stage set analogy can be taken further and used as a comparison to the work of Swedish artist Miriam Backström. For five years Backström documented stage sets in television studios, theatres and even the Ikea museum. Unlike Backström, Harris does not offer us any clues outside his chosen frame – these houses could almost be anywhere in the world. The former always intimates each environment’s artificiality – whereas Harris adds a certain distance to the documented reality.

Bar Lisi, with its almost sterile interior design, added to a sense of unease or intrusion of personal space. The surrounding bar’s minimal décor echoed the starkness of each photograph, which hung like portals or spy holes, voyeuristically peering into other peoples past lives. Harris successfully showed he was a worthy contemporary to other more recognisable names in the Format 05 Season and subtly demonstrated his own personal fascination with the themes of documentary, memory and place.

Jennie Syson

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Miriam Bäckström
Set Constructions Series
1995 – 2000

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Gordon Matta Clark


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