In Mexico © Noel Myles
I spent a very enjoyable evening last Thursday at the PV of Noel Myles' new exhibition Paradise which has just opened at the Alison Richards Building on the Sedgwick site of Cambridge University. As ever, it was worth the trip to see Noel’s wonderful images up close, to catch up with Noel himself, and this time to be able to share the experience with my daughter who is currently studying at the university.
I’ve written before about Noel’s work and have to admit I am a very big fan of his work. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about his pictures is the length of time you can be engaged in his still films. Conventional photographs can be seen very quickly. It is a difficult task to create a photo that has many visual layers or interconnections that can hold the viewer’s attention. We tend to see the image, accept the truth of the photo and quickly assimilate the key points, and discard the unwanted information, just as we do when looking at the real world. To lift a photo out of the ordinary we can try a number of different ploys – an unusual angle, reflections, depth of field effects, dramatic lighting, a particularly interesting subject or really elegant composition.
Olive Grove No 3 © Noel Myles
I would suggest that hand created images – paintings, drawings, etchings, often engender a longer inspection, because we know the image is an abstraction. Every line, mark or brush stroke was placed there by the artist for some reason. We look, we wonder, we interpret, we spent time with the picture.
Along the Stour Valley © Noel Myles
With still films or joiners, each cell has been placed there too by the artist. We can’t see the whole picture in one go, so we spend time trying to piece together the story. Each individual cell is a photo, loaded with information which suddenly needs more careful observation than it would do in isolation. Each taken at a different time and place, build up a visual memory of the piece, we see patches where the cells join up and we start to see the whole picture.
Suffolk winter © Noel Myles
Another interesting phenomenon is the way in which the eye moves across the pictures. I find that I will scan the whole still film in different ways each time I look at it; across this row first and then down that column one time, then a completely different route the next time. It is like looking a strip of movie film that is continually being chopped up and re-edited into a new sequence on every subsequent view. The story is told slightly different on each viewing.
Noel Myles has been developing this work for decades now. His pictures are pictures are so fascinating not only for the overall compositions he creates, but also because of the dialogue that he builds into adjacent cells to create an overall narrative. I strongly recommend that if you are in Cambridge any time before Christmas, give yourself a good hour or so to go over to see Noel’s exhibition. And maybe get yourself a very nice Christmas present.
Paradise - an exhibition by Noel Myles, is on display at the Alison Richard Building Friday 12 October to Thursday 20 December