In a former American Express building on Edward Street, Brighton, artist Felicity Hammond has constructed a showroom for luxury living: melted orange resin, resembling outstretched slithers of prosciutto ham, slides down pale blue stairs; while shiny marbled slabs offset the verdant leaves of house plants. It’s a world we recognise by its parts – the sleek surfaces and semiotics of middlebrow living – rather than as a whole. As Hammond explains, it’s a world that lies "somewhere between the archaic and futuristic, between luxury and decay."
Photography is Hammond’s material, rather than her medium. She takes pictures of manipulated images – digital architectural renderings, blueprints, real estate developer’s billboards and the sumptuous glossy brochures for luxury living – and moulds them using advanced photographic technologies such as CGI, then printing onto malleable acrylic sheets that she later crafts into large-scale structures and photo-objects.
Show Room is London-based Hammond’s latest photo-installation, the recipient of the British Journal of Photography’s International Photography Award 2016. Commissioned by Photoworks and House Festival, Brighton as part of a wider project, The Language of Living, the work is a comment on simulated imagery, construction and capitalist development in cities around the world, evolving Hammond’s ongoing interest in the development of architectural spaces, both domestic and industrial. "I feel like the conversation around the implications of regeneration might be further discussed. I hope this work might be a starting point to activate discussion; its placing in the public realm is vital for this," she explains.
Inhabiting two locations – the University of Brighton’s new space for photography and moving image, and a former fruit market that is itself in the process of regeneration – Show Room responds to the relationship between architectural design and its intersection with history and culture, and the role of educational institutes in the urban regeneration which is happening in the area of city. "I decided to use the brand new university building as a space to show an installation which plays on the aesthetics of the marketing suite or showroom. The imagery sited on the hoardings point further to this world, acting as portals into the future of the site," she says, adding: "These site-specific installations work to draw attention to the distinct relationship between the architectural design of educational institutions, the historical value of the area they inhabit, and the future living spaces that will be born out of them. It works to challenge the role that education plays in urban regeneration, and the impact it has on the socio-economic landscape around it."
Below, Hammond discusses five of her seminal works that either inspired or feature in her latest exhibit...
"This was one of the main starting points for my investigation into the transformation of the urban landscape. It is a photographic collage, where images were taken over a period of a couple of years, particularly in North East London where my family once lived and worked."
"After creating Restore to Factory Settings, it occurred to me that the imagery that was ‘missing’ from the urban landscape in my depiction was the advertising imagery for new ‘luxury’ developments. This collage work talks about the way in which these images almost shroud what has been left behind, whilst blurring the digital world with the physical."
"This was my first material investigation into working with printing directly to acrylic. I wanted to allow the imagery used on rendered images to manifest itself into the physical world."
"This is a part of my photo-sculptural work which uses stock imagery used by architects to depict kitchen scenes in rendered visualisations. They tend to appear like still lives, where instead of rotting fruits, we are presented with digitalised, pixilated fruits. I have melted, warped, and distorted this image, to refer back to the rendered world from which they have been taken."
'Show Room: The Language of Living' by Felicity Hammond, a co-commission with Photoworks, runs at The University of Brighton Galleries, 154-155 Edward Street, Brighton, BN2 0JG, until May 29, 2016.