'Constable' - solo exhibition of photographic work responding to Constable's open air oil sketches and Constable Country

Billingham, Richard ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6474-5656 (2007) 'Constable' - solo exhibition of photographic work responding to Constable's open air oil sketches and Constable Country. [Show/Exhibition]


‘Constable’ was a solo show of approximately 50 black and white and colour landscape photographs exhibited at the Town Hall Galleries, Ipswich (5th May - 16th June 2007) that responded to Constable Country, a relatively small region along the River Stour straddling the borders of Essex and Suffolk, where Constable made many of his iconic paintings – most notably the Haywain. Many of them have become some of the best-known images in British art.

The exhibition ‘Constable’ was the first stage in a what has since become a much larger body of photographic work that deals with the British Landscape. This growing body of photography and research has outputted in various ways over the years and in 2012 Billingham’s work ‘Hedgerow’ was juxtaposed with Constable’s ‘The Cornfield’, 1826 at the National Gallery, London in the exhibition ‘Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present’ that also travelled to CaixaForum, Barcelona (2013) and CaixaForum, Madrid (2013)

The 50 or so works were made over a short period in Spring 2007 and were contemporary interpretations of the environment favoured by Constable.

Where many of his contemporaries tended to an interpretation of the English landscape in a formalised and picturesque way, Constable sought to capture the true spirit of the British landscape in a way that many artists and critics today regard as avant-garde.

Billingham used disposable unbranded cameras with plastic lenses purchased from charity shops in an attempt to capture the spontaneity and vitality of Constables oil sketched that were made in the open air. Constable’s oil sketches were research material for his much larger and detailed exhibited paintings. The decision to employ such cameras evolved from on earlier series of photographs made in Zoos (based on images in his family album taken by his mother on childhood visits to a nearby zoo) and from his first body of photographic work called ‘Ray’s a Laugh’ which sometimes used unbranded cameras with plastic lenses. Billingham has said that when he first visited Constable country in 2007 and made photographs, he found it difficult to identify Constable’s motifs in the landscape. It was only when he got the images back from being processed that he could see Constable’s landscape motifs through the photographs.

The photographs not only reflect the 18th century painter’s choice of subject matter but also his attitude to picture making and his determination to represent the natural environment in its truest form.

Constable preliminary oil sketches are today highly regarded by contemporary artists and critics and on one level, Billingham’s ‘Constable’ photographs have shown a similar approach, existing as preliminary studies for photographic works made since.

Venue Details

  1. Constable
    • Location: Town Hall Galleries, Ipswich
    • Dates: 05 May - 16 Jun 2007

Item Type: Show/Exhibition
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts
Item ID: 27684
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Richard Billingham
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2019 09:38
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2019 09:38
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/27684

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