LondonJulie Cockburn: Painting the Photograph
Julie Cockburn (b.1966, UK) is renowned for her creative re-imagining of found objects and vintage photographs, embellishing and reconfiguring the originals through carefully applied embroidery, montage or ceramics. Her inventive reconfigurations result in meticulously crafted contemporary artworks – each a unique piece.
For this exhibition, Cockburn references the semi-abstract paintings of Picasso and Leger, taking formal portrait, still life and landscape photography and transforming them through her signature interventions. Her aim is not to ‘improve’ the original photos – many of which have already been tinted and in Cockburn’s view therefore already altered by a subjective process – but rather to add another chapter to its story and continue its journey.
Cockburn works directly and in response to each photograph, adopting different techniques accordingly. For some she translates painterly marks into embroidery, using a fading ‘ombre’ technique, which lends a delicate watercolour feel to the end result. For others she gaudily applies bold, colourful makeup, worn as face paint. By repeatedly layering her distinctive mask-like motifs over the subject, Cockburn creates a paradoxical un-masking, hinting at the integral character of a person or atmosphere of a place.
In offering up her personal, visual language in dialogue with the original, Cockburn highlights that we all bring our histories and perspectives to bear as we look or ‘read’ photos, and invites the viewer to become aware of, and empowered by, their own reading and response.
Julie would like to thank Chris New at Bluebird Pottery in Sudbourne, Suffolk, for his help with the ceramic elements in this exhibition.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)