Ambit @ Street Level, Glasgow

Street Level presents a part of the Ambit project on Scottish Photography, and features five artists whose markedly different practices nevertheless contain moments of subtle rapport and overlap

Review by Adam Benmakhlouf | 30 May 2017

The Glasgow leg of Ambit shows a substantial body of work from each of the five photographers that comprise its line-up. Despite its deliberately and apparently diverse approaches, there are interesting instances of rapport throughout the group show.

For instance, a flatly cool and evocative northern light is used to different effect across the work of Margaret Mitchell and Blazej Marczak. In Mitchell’s work, overcast weather makes for the sense of a single long instant as she tracks the generations of her nieces and nephews, then their children in turn over the course of two decades. For Marczak, it’s used as a signifier of the skies of Aberdeen but is recontextualised each time it appears. Sometimes it looks like glowing aluminium, then an enchanting fog.

Tine Bek and Sylwia Kowalczyk then each (through different means) engage a rich feeling of the uncanny. For Bek, throughout her presentation there are rococo curlicues, dramatically angled stances of people from behind, and sumptuous sculptural forms: There’s also a playful emphasis on the photograph as an object itself. So there is a picture of a spray of flowers against stylised floral wallpaper in front of a large leaning photograph of an oil painting of flowers.

For Kowalczyk an uncanny sense of depth and flatness recurs through her series of collages of scaled up details of carefully layered torn photographic prints. Taking away easy familiarities, Kowalczyk heightens the strangeness of the unknown photographic subject to make an alluring intrigue across her presentation. This idea of unfamiliarity is worked into a sense of disturbing otherness in Donnie Maclean’s rippling, skewed black and white street photography of worried and distressed looking passers-by.

Assembled on the basis of their very different practices, Ambit is nevertheless just as exciting for its below-the-surface network of surprising moments of conversation and common ground. [Adam Benmakhlouf]