Magical Photography By Justin Coombes At BCA Gallery

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 16 October 2007
photo of an allotment in an urban landscape with glowing lights and a yellow sky

A Place for Everything. © the artist

Bedford’s BCA gallery is showing large-scale photographic works by Justin Coombes in the exhibition Urban Pastoral, running until December 6 2007.

Coombes’ first exhibition in a public gallery outside London consists of magical scenes created by combining London landscapes with memories of his rural childhood.

He often uses unusual methods, such as projecting images onto buildings or interiors at night, re-photographing them with long exposures. The resulting composite images jar with expectations.

In Urban Pastoral, he has used more direct interventions in the landscape such as subtly rearranging objects to create tableaux that are both recognisable and unnerving. Toxic skies and strange effects charge the banal with a striking atmosphere.

photo of an urban landscape at night taken with a long exposure so that lights glow brightly

A Visitor. © Justin Coombes

Huge images are shown on lightboxes at BCA, recreating the sense of romance and adventure the artist discovered on moving to London. The images take the viewer on a journey with intricate narratives – you may need to return to each one more than once to take in its details.

In one, a recollection of Coombes’ mother landscaping their Devon garden is recreated on a South London allotment. Tempestuous blue clouds, barbed wire fences, a scarecrow and looming tower blocks undercut the idyllic nature of the memory.

In Vanitas with Fox, the urban predator is caught in the headlights of a car whilst scavenging in rubbish. A skull design on a cardboard box the fox has torn open augurs death.

Short video and performance works by Coombes are also on show, incorporating the photographs and highlighting literary and historical references in the works.

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