Reflective Construction and Calculated Construction
Gallery 525 is currently exhibiting work by Rebecca Milling from her photographic series Reflective Construction and Calculated Construction. Rebecca received funding from the Royal Scottish Academy Residency Scheme to travel to North Lands Glass in Caithness in conjunction with Stills, spending roughly four weeks there over the course of eighteen months. Her proposal to learn how to blow glass came from an earlier series of photographs called Elemental Construction, in which she had made towers of picture frame glass using a glass cutter and glass glue. The inspiration for the project ‘stemmed from watching children build a tower of bricks as high as possible with the sole intent of joyfully bashing it down.’
I wasn’t familiar with Caithness or North Lands Glass which is in the most beautiful remote location. The people up there were very enthusiastic and helpful, as well as amused by what I wanted to do. I was taught scientific glass blowing by Ian Pearson who is an expert in his field and can make any shape using this method of glass blowing. The background in the photographs is the amazing sky of Caithness at dusk
As Rebecca learned to blow glass her primary interest was in reflections and distortions, inspiring the series Reflected Construction. She developed the organic, uneven glass forms you see in the photographs, and started to build these sculptures as her skills increased. Calculated Construction was made later, getting back to the roots of the idea. The photographs record the instant of destruction – ‘the joy of the smash.’
The act of destruction and resulting images incorporate a conscious use of chance: random action with concentrated creation. In reality, they are the result of meticulous planning. The glass did not take long to smash, but it did take days to make the sculptures, a team of people and a lot of kit.
I used powerful profoto flash and motor shutter speed in the hope of catching one still image of the drama of the smash, but the excitement of never knowing what I was going to get was definitely a very significant and hugely exciting part of the work.
The Gallery currently has copies Rebecca’s new art book EXIT, comprised of 15 photographs and text by Cordelia Underhill:
EXIT represents a development in the theme of disappearing acts prevalent in Rebecca Milling’s work. This series of photographs captures animals exiting the scene, and is distinct in its graphic and formal use of tone… The animals, cut in half and leaving the frame, give oblique but pointed reference to the mass endangerment of species in our present environmental crisis.CORDELIA UNDERHILL
Cordelia Underhill sees a strong reference in the work to the climate crisis, which has certainly been a defining preoccupation of recent times, she describes Rebecca’s work as ‘engaged with the environment and our performance within it’, and for Rebecca the window of open interpretation of her work is vital. She explains:
I don’t have a specific message I’m trying to get across… The photographs are all taken in different zoos. The idea stemmed from noticing children’s instinctive affinity to animals and how the animal always moves too fast to capture the face on a day out at the zoo. The performer leaving the stage. Significantly it is the first body of work which I’ve ever made where I am not the subject/ i.e. the performer. I chose the format for the book because I think it suits the work so perfectly, the animals always leaving the frame as well as the frame always moving and the user moving the sheets to make the full frame.
Often photography is about waiting for the right moment; but here the work in EXIT is about missing the moment or changing what the right moment means, in this way Rebecca Milling’s work subverts traditional tropes in Photography. She has previously played with long exposures, creating ghostly imagery that give the impression that the camera has missed something and the resulting photographs engage with what the camera hasn’t managed to capture.
We would like to thank Rebecca for giving a talk at the launch of 525 Gallery on Thursday 28 November. It was a fantastic event and a pleasure to learn more about Reflective Construction, Calculated Construction and EXIT.
A number of prints of Rebecca Milling’s work are for sale at 525 Gallery . Please contact us for a price list or more information.