Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Lincoln Clarkes at Polychrome Gallery by Philip Willey August 2016.

Lincoln Clarkes photographs speak for themselves (which doesn’t stop people like me adding our 2 cents). They are fragments of life that he has picked up here and there, moments that he has noticed and recorded. You can find a representative cross section of his work at Polychrome until August 18th.

Clarkes studied painting at Emily Carr College but he made his mark as a photographer with a series of stark photographs of heroine addicts and prostitutes in Vancouver for which he was both praised and condemned. Since then he has photographed wealthy Angelinos, the Burning Man festival, women with guns, fashion models and many street scenes mainly in Vancouver, Toronto and London.

The work at Polychrome is whimsical for the most part. Clearly Clarkes has a sense of life’s contradictions. Some of the photographs are matter of fact, a pregnant woman waters a lawn, girls eat pizza, there are decaying shop fronts, natural intrusions, others are more loaded. It’s a balanced show, some light, some heavy, a group of girls wearing pink tights and bowler hats (British Airways hostesses? Bank of England couriers?) contrasts with Todd Davis on a hospital bed surrounded by life-support equipment. Nancy Lanthier in her biography of Clarkes calls it wry pessimism. Robin Laurence in a review of a recent show, called Giving Notice at Initial Gallery describes Clarkes’ work as….“somewhere between glam and glitty. Glitty perhaps.”

The photographs are technically excellent and they all tell little stories. They invite us to supply our own meaning. There’s a gentle humour, never overstated, which makes all of them enjoyable in their own way. Studying them is very rewarding.

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