Carolyn Phoenix at Club LA and Gallery

Club LA and Gallery: Carolyn Phoenix

“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in” are the words printed on the invitation to see an exhibition of photographic art by Carolyn Phoenix that recently opened at the Club LA and Gallery, curated by Fuyuko ‘冬子’ Amano (Wintergeist). Whether this is the title of the exhibition or a byline for it, I’m unsure. But I can say that the pieces on offer are hauntingly beautiful in their composition and presentation.

The mezzanine level of the gallery, where the exhibition is being hosted, has been converted into a dark, enclosed space in keeping with the title / byline. On display within it are 20 images by Carolyn, sharing the space with torso mannequins equipped with angel wings that add to the dream-like feel of the environment.

Club LA and Gallery: Carolyn Phoenix

The images themselves are mostly dark in tone and subject – so much so that specific details can be hard to make out beyond the shard or pools of washes of light each image contains. These bursts and flickers and beams of light reflect the title  / byline: they have seemingly entered the worlds of these pictures through cracks or holes or as a result of sunlight breaking through clouds or a lone bulb hanging from a ceiling or a reflection from somewhere, to revel things that might otherwise remain unseen.

What these casts of light reveal various from image to image.  Some are mindful of dreams or secret thoughts, often dark in tone – the kind of imaginings we’d rather not shed public light upon, but that nevertheless draw us to them. Others are lighter in nature, simply exulting in the play of light and shadow or the beauty of an artist’s expression of their work; there’s even a hint of playfulness about one.

Club LA and Gallery: Carolyn Phoenix

Some of the images seem to call into focus ideas of identity and of judgement. Teller (seen on the left of the banner image for this review) for example, with its reclined figure looking at a list of eyes from eyeless sockets, tends to suggest the idea of how we present ourselves to the world. The eyes, after all, are the windows of the soul; so how better to project who we might want to appear to be than by selecting our eyes, and only revealing what we want to be seen of ourselves? At the same time there is another potential interpretation: if the eyes are the windows into the soul and thus to who we really are, then how better to remove the potential for the light of understanding to penetrate our inner self than by expunging our eyes altogether, lest we be judged for what lies within.

Judgement is a theme brought into focus by a piece called Verdict (on the left of the image directly above these two paragraphs). But Again the meaning seems to be twofold. On the one hand, the tall figures surrounding the smaller one suggest a fear of judgement; of being looked down upon by others. But closer examination of the smaller subject, catsuited and hooded, perhaps suggests something else: a desire to be judged, to be found wanting and perhaps “punished”. Thus the light haloing the scene perhaps reveals kink-edged secret she at the centre of the image would rather remain hidden to all but a few – or even takes a guilty pleasure in having it so revealed…

Club LA and Gallery: Carolyn Phoenix

Nuanced throughout, a captivating display of photographic art well worth visiting. And while doingso, why not avail yourself of the exhibitions by tralala Loordes and Sighvatr (worthaboutapig), both of which can be seen or accessed on the ground floor of the gallery.

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