Hannah Starkey's cinematic photos come to Mead Gallery in first solo show for a decade

By Mark Sheerin | 26 January 2011
Photo of a female newsreader in a TV newsroom
Hannah Starkey, Newsroom (2005) Courtesy Maureen Paley, London© Hannah Starkey
Exhibition: Hannah Starkey – Twenty-Nine Pictures, Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, until March 12 2011

Everyday moments and drama worthy of the big screen would appear to be two poles of human experience, with few of us ever actually reaching the latter.

But in the photographs of Hannah Starkey, the quietest of scenes are given emotional pull thanks to artful composition and a cinematographic treatment.

a colour photo of a young girl sitting at a cafe table across from a woman
Hannah Starkey, Untitled, 1998.© Hannah Starkey. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London
Her pictures are also carefully cast and the Belfast-born photographer often uses actors to play out the drama in her tableaux. All her protagonists are women.

The results look relatively unstaged and could be fleeting moments in an arthouse screening. Yet by contrast with most movies, these are stories which do not unfold.

a photograph of a woman wioth a tattoo and bobbed hair smoking a cigarette at a bar
Hannah Starkey, Untitled (June 2007)© Hannah Starkey. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London
Like promotional stills for films which you will never see, Starkey’s images leave a lot to the imagination. They should promise and frustrate in equal measure.

Perhaps this sense of the incomplete is why curator Diarmuid Costello chose just 29 photographs for the artist’s biggest solo show in a decade.
a photo of a woman placing her hand on a mirror in a cafe
Hannah Starkey, Untitled (May 1997)© Hannah Starkey. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London
  • Open 12pm-9pm Monday-Saturday. Admission free.

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