7 August 2005

Andrew Watson at Cafe Adagio

A few of Andrew Watson’s pictures have been on the Cafe Adagio’s walls for some time already, and their bold printing and moody intensity meant that I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see more of his work when the cafe gave him a bigger show.

Often he chooses subjects that sail very close to the jagged rocks of cliche, but somehow always manage to avoid it through a combination of an off-centre point of view, a sense of taste, and great technical prowess. I was particularly struck with an extreme wide-angle view out the window of an aircraft, which is a subject every happy snapper with a disposable camera has attempted at some stage. The picture is framed by a black vignette which may be the cabin window or the drop-off at the edges of the frame caused by using a wide-angle lens whose outer edge is within the edge of the focal plane. At any rate, the shining slender wing tip against the patterned carpet of the ground below looks like it could have been taken with a toy camera or some antique from the 19th century.

Other images of the countryside around Sunbury look typical enough, with views of paddocks, fences, winding roads and dramatic skies, but there was a certain strangeness which held me for a while longer, attempting to work out what it might be. At a glance, the ground looks a little whiter than it should be, as if the picture had been made early in the morning, with due still on the grass. And yet the ground seems to have some inner glow which made me wonder if I was actually looking at pictures made with infra-red film, with that characteristic all-over gleam as if the pictures had been taken on the moon. I also wondered whether they had been made with long exposures under moon light. I’d be interested to know what the answer is, but it doesn’t really matter; Andrew has managed to take a well-worn subject and give it his own very distinctive spin.

My only major criticism would be that in such a relatively small collection of pictures, it would have been better to concentrate on one group of images, rather than attempting to spread out a few very different images across a single show. People might like them, but pictures of the cat don’t really make a whole lot of sense beside urban and rural landscapes with an entirely different mood and intention.

However, he comes across as an emerging commercial photographer with his own point of view and the confidence and willingness to take technical risks and pull them off with great style.

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