20 January to 8 May 2018
This display is part of an exhibition entitled Caprona by Alexandra Leykauf. Since July 2017 German artist Alexandra Leykauf has been investigating the histories and landscapes of Essex, looking at the ways in which they have been represented within art from literature to film. The exhibition, which includes new film and photographic work alongside research materials, is a survey of the research undertaken during Leykauf's fellowship in Essex and represents a series of starting points for thinking about how to represent landscape.
The title of the exhibition 'Caprona', is taken from the science fiction trilogy The Land that Time Forgot by Edward Rice Buroughs. Caprona is a mythical island in which all the evolutionary stages of life are simultaneously living side by side in a single landscape. In her research, Leykauf has been especially interested in the relationship between time and landscape, how techniques such as aerial photography make it possible to see the history of a landscape combined in a single image, from crop marks and burial mounds to churches and mudflats.
Unlike traditional gallery exhibitions, this exhibition is a reflection of Leykauf's research in response to these questions and a glimpse into her thinking about the opportunities they present for her own artistic practice. Some of the works have been commissioned for the exhibition, while others are tests and experiments. The film shown here was recorded for this exhibition at the Southend Central Museum and features Leykauf speaking about her work and research with other artists and writers, as well as readings from texts which were important to her thinking.
Photogram prints on photographic paper
This experimental, site specific work was made using the large windows of the gallery. The prints were made at night by making a gouache painting directly onto the windows, and using natural light to expose the prints. In part they are an experiment by the artist to trial using the photogram technique at this scale. They are also a response to histories of landscape painting, abstraction and photography, making connections between the flat verticality of Chinese landscape painting and the role of empty canvas as a space for the imagination with western traditions of abstraction.
The use of the epic landscape format, requiring the viewer to physically move across the surface of the work, as with a Chinese scroll for example, also suggests a form of narrative which is at odds with the work's abstract forms. Landscapes in both painting and photography are often depicted as prescriptive spaces suggesting wilderness, human achievement or disaster. This work purposefully avoids such specifics suggesting a more nuanced reading of how landscapes can be rendered as art works and in the mind of the viewer.
HD video projection, 42 mins
During the course of her Fellowship in Essex, Alexandra Leykauf visited museum and library collections across the county. In the Forum Library in Southend she discovered a collection of aerial photographs of Southend and the wider county. The photographs chart the growth of the town through the latter part of the 20th Century but also many of the historic sites now only visible from the air, of buildings and earth works long since vanished. Within these photographs, Leykauf was interested in how it was possible to see across great periods of time in a single image from bronze age settlements to Roman occupation and beyond.
Combining these images with audio field recordings made at number of sites, Leykauf has worked with a film editor to develop a new approach to film making within her practice, using single and layered images with animation techniques. The resulting film is a document of her research, a record of her travels in the Essex landscape and an experiment in film making.