The artist's interest in the city as a social and sometimes political space, and her ongoing engagement with the problems of depicting the interior lives of her subjects. Within these broad themes, other concerns surface, from the relationship between the still and moving image, to the quotation and manipulation of painterly, photographic and literary genres.
Photographic and film works
Kettle's Yard is pleased to present the first major solo show of British artist Sarah Dobai in the UK. Coinciding with the end of the artist's two-year residency award at Delfina Studio Trust in London, this exhibition draws together photographic and film works made during this period; a new, specially commissioned, two-screen film installation; and several key earlier pieces.
The show explores two central themes in Dobai's recent practice; the artist's interest in the city as a social and sometimes political space, and her ongoing engagement with the problems of depicting the interior lives of her subjects. Within these broad themes, other concerns surface, from the relationship between the still and moving image, to the quotation and manipulation of painterly, photographic and literary genres.
Sarah Dobai's work taps into a tradition of realism within contemporary photographic practice that resonates with current debates around the status and nature of documentary photography. Her images seek to depict contemporary lived experience through the dramatic potential of a seemingly naturalistic photographic image.
Dobai's practice ranges across film and photographic media, through genres of portraiture, landscapes, or domestic mise-en-sce'nes. Tranquil cityscapes such as "Above the City" (2003) operate like pressure valves between more uncomfortable, carefully constructed images. As with the film work, "Short Story Piece" (2005) where a series of still images are looped and repeated in different sequences to frustrate any developing narratives. In photographic works such as Shelter (Budapest)¹ and "Shelter (London)¹ (2000), the artist built a temporary structure based on shelters she had seen used by homeless people on the street in order to photograph it. After taking her picture, she left the shelters in situ; she later heard about them being used in part or as existing structures by people living on the streets. Although her photographs have the appearance of documentary images, they mix artifice and reality in a way that disrupts the way we interact with them. A similar strategy underpins the construction of the photographic portrait "Lorraine as Cora from Two on a Party" (2003) where the identity of the actor in the role of a fictional character is allowed to remain present, creating two portraits in one image.
"Short Story Piece" and the two photographic portraits which make up "Two on a Party" (2003) reflect the artist¹s ongoing interest in the relationship between text and image, drawing in particular on the genre of the short story as used by American authors such as Raymond Carver, Tennessee Williams and Carson McCullers.
The specially commissioned film piece, "Model 280 TE¹, develops the theme of interior/exterior in a different direction. It takes the family car journey, a common element of drama seen on TV and in the cinema, as its starting point. In the two-screen installation this mundane scenario is re-enacted on Dobai¹s own terms becoming psychologically and socially charged in the process. Referring to Jean Luc Godard¹s 'Alphaville', the work combines documentary and constructed material to semi-fictionalise a journey out of a city into the surrounding suburbs. In the installation, the powerful feeling of absorption conjured by the interior of the car and its occupants is juxtaposed with darkly suggestive images of the passing spaces outside. Using an evocative soundtrack to unite the two screens, this new film work draws on art and popular culture references to reflect on how the car has both fashioned and responded to modern ideas about the self.
Concerned with the often ambiguous relationship between psychological and actual reality, her images explore the social, physical and psychic interaction between subjects and spaces.
This exhibition at Kettle's Yard coincides with the end of the artist¹s. Recent exhibitions include solo shows at 1,000,000mph, London (2005), Galerie Zurcher, Paris (2005), Artists' Space, New York (2002), and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santiago di Compostella, Spain (2000). She has also participated in numerous group exhibitions including Overawe, Foxy Productions, New York (2005), Sodium Dreams, CCS Museum, New York (2003), September Horse, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Shimmering Substance, Arnolfini, Bristol & Cornerhouse Manchester Unscene, Gasworks, London (all 2002), and Black Box Recorder, a British Council touring exhibition (2000). Sarah Dobai lives and works in London.
Castle Street - Cambridge