British artist Hannah Collins (b. 1956) is known for her large unframed photographs that create immersive spatial experiences, and installations that involve film and sound. Her summer exhibition at Camden Arts Centre reveals Collins' capacity to convey the emotional and psychological aspects of spaces steeped in cultural and social history.
Gallery 1 introduces Collins' vast unframed prints whose scale envelopes the viewer. Spanning her career to date, they are mostly interior scenes of apparent inhabitation. They include two early works made in East London - Thin Protective Coverings (1986) and The Violin Player (1988) - involving makeshift furnishings, mattresses and cardboard that provide temporary comfort and refuge. Another image shows the traces of life inside the hut where Nelson Mandela spent his teenage years, alienated from his family. Nearly all of these places are unoccupied, inviting the viewer to imagine the lives that were once lived there.
A motif of sound - both musical and the spoken word - runs through the exhibition. Family (1988) shows a collection of aged and worn loudspeakers, resting on each other in a common space. The Interior and the Exterior - Noah Purifoy (2014) is an installation of sound and photographs filling an entire gallery that is an homage to the celebrated West-Coast artist (1917 - 2004). The images were taken with a plate camera, engaging a slow, contemplative way of looking at Purifoy's assemblages of recycled materials and objects. The three-channel soundscape brings together spoken accounts of Purifoy's contemporaries, recorded by Collins, including Ed Ruscha, members of the Black Panther Party as well as artists engaged with the radical activism and social revolution through the '60s and '70s.
The Fertile Forest (2013-15) is an installation of photographs with accompanying text, gathered during periods spent with Cofan and Inga tribal peoples in the Amazon basin. These plants serve a variety of purposes - from headache cures to maladies of the soul and in some cases enable hallucinogenic journeys on spiritual planes and 'telepathic' communication with other individuals. The photographs are accompanied by wall texts narrating the physical and spiritual journeys made into the forest by tribal members as well as recounting the relationships formed by the artist whilst she was recording the plants. Shown as a sequence of small prints on a shelf around the perimeter of the room, the installation reflects the movement of the river giving life to the Amazon. Printed in rich detail, the images encourage a contemplation of their tiny similarities and differences.
A time-lapse film, Solitude and Company (2008) is in the Reading Room. Filmed in a former industrial town in Northern France, it is a portrait of an abandoned and derelict factory, accompanied by the music of a local Algerian DJ and voices recounting their own dreams.
Hannah Collins studied at the Slade (1974-78) following which her career was established in the UK, with solo exhibitions at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham,1988; ICA London 1989; Chisenhale Gallery, London,1996; Cornerhouse Gallery, Manchester, 1996; Contemporary Art Centre, Glasgow, 1996. Having spent many years living in Spain she is now again based in the UK. Collins was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1993.
Supported by the Hannah Collins Exhibition Circle.