Ciara Kummert reviews ‘Uniform: A Collaboration with Jackie Nickerson’ on at the National Gallery until 10 January 2016.
The newest exhibition in the National Gallery is ‘Uniform: A Collaboration with Jackie Nickerson’, where well known 18th and 19th century painters’ works have been placed beside photographs by contemporary photographer Jackie Nickerson. Although depicted in a different medium and from a different time period, striking similarities between colour and composition can be seen as two images – a painting by Joshua Reynolds and a photograph by Jackie Nickerson, are placed side by side. It is shocking just how alike the images are.
The series focuses on the synergy between cultivation, labourers and the environment, employing a reduced artistic language to draw attention to important debases around crop specialisation, subsistence farming and food security.
In the gallery beside the photographs of Nickerson it is stated that ‘For TERRAIN (2013), the series from which the photographs in Uniform were taken, Nickerson turned her attention to the role of women in the production and commodification of agricultural goods. The series focuses on the synergy between cultivation, labourers and the environment, employing a reduced artistic language to draw attention to important debases around crop specialisation, subsistence farming and food security. Based in County Louth, Nickerson has exhibited extensively in Europe and North America, and is represented internationally in many public and private collections’.
It is interesting to see a correlation between a living artist and one who lived in the 18th century. Both prominent and well known in their time, many similarities can be drawn between the artists themselves, and not just their artwork.
In one presentation of works, a print of Nickerson’s, entitled ‘Ruth’ (taken in 2012) is hung very closely beside a painting of Florentine artist Domenico Ghirlandaoi who lived in his birth town between 1449 and 1494. The 15th century oil paint is on panel and was purchased by the Shaw fund in 1959. It is referred to as the ‘presumed portrait of Clarice Orsini, wife of Lorenzo the Magnificent’. Though created 600 years apart, these two depictions have easily identifiable similarities. The close hanging of two different images is done in order to suggest that visually they are closely linked. Both images depict women as the central and only character within the borders of the picture. The colours in both pictures are similar, the richness of the red capturing the viewer’s attention.
Though created 600 years apart, these two depictions have easily identifiable similarities.
In both images, respect is evoked for each woman – one for her physical ability and the other for her social standing. While both women have different statuses in society and live in different parts of the world, there is a link between them. Both are depicted as strong. And both women carry a similar shape on their head, one a seemingly heavy weight and the other, an ornamented hat. We cannot help but have an especially high regard for the lady who carries a large load on her head. It is curious to see how one lady’s face is framed, while the other lady’s face is obscured and angled slightly away from us. ‘Uniform’ demonstrates a remarkable familiarity between artists past and present.