Mishka Henner at the Open Eye

The main exhibition taking place at the moment at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool feature the photographs of Mishka Henner, a Belgium photographer currently based in Manchester. The exhibition occupies two of the rooms on the ground floor of the gallery.
In the first room, there were a number of images from his Levelland Oilfeeds and Feedlots. These were created by obtaining images via the Internet from Google Earth and Bing Maps, combining multiple images together, manipulating them digitally and then printing out high definition, large scale inkjet prints. The images were quite striking and at first glance looked liked abstract patterns. But on closer inspection their true nature was revealed. I rather liked them.

The second room mainly focused on his Less Américains project. This involved taking images from Robert Frank’s influential 1958 book of photographs, Les Américains, and erased most of the visual content, leaving only solitary details from the originals, producing images such as this

Further examples from this work can be viewed on the artist’s blog, here.

I guess these works (from both rooms) rasies some interesting questions as Henner has not actually taken photographs. Rather, he has used images from other sources – the Internet in the case of Levelland Oilfeeds and Feedlots and a photography book for  Less Américains. I’m sure many people would consider this not to be “real” art as Henner hasn’t created anything from scratch and is utilising others’ work. Interestingly, we visited another exhibition recently, “In the Middle Distance”  at Abbot Hall in Kendal, which features works by a Swiss artist, Uwe Wittwer, who also creates images by computer manipulation of old photographs, he’d “found” on the Internet.

But “Found” objects and images have always had their place in art, particularly in artists who create collages and the like. Recent examples I’ve seen include works by Kurt Schwitters, the master of Merz, also at Abbot Hall (Tate Britain are currently showing a major retrospective until 12 May of the work he produced during his  limited time in Britain as a refugee from Nazi Germany) and  works by the “Affichistes”, Jacques Villeglé and François Dufrêne, at the  Musée d’Art Contemporain in Nîmes and some of the works of Peter Blake on show at the Peter Blake and Pop Music exhibition we visited at Salford Quays a few weeks ago. And both Picasso and Marcel Duchamps were masters in the use of “found objects”.

I think Mishka Henner and Uwe Wittwer are both credible artists. Their skill is in selecting images and they way the manipulate them to produce something new, interesting, challenging and in some cases, beautiful.

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4 thoughts on “Mishka Henner at the Open Eye

  1. An interesting exhibition and I hope it is still on when I visit. I agree with you that using already existing images is as valid as starting ‘from scratch’ – what matters is what you do with those images, the vision and imagination and the artistic flair. Warhol and Basquiat used each other’s images to create works of art: they would deface each other’s paintings and scribble all over them, so, as you say, this is something that artists have been doing in the 20th century, at least. As did Jake and Dinos Chaman with Goya prints: I have to say though that when I read about that I felt that this was sheer vandalism and was shocked by their nerve: after all, Goya is one of European art’s great artists, and I doubt if anyone will know about the Chapman brothers in 100 year’s time, but then this is my personal view.

    • It has only just opened so should still be on when you visit the ‘Pool.Personally I don’t like what the Chapman’s did with the Goya prints. Use images, fine, but to destroy an existing work of art is going too far. for me.

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