Serchia Gallery’s inaugural show ‘To Skim a Stone’ presents the works of Anne Erhard, Eva Louisa Jonas and Cameron Williamson in a second iteration of a show previously held as part of Brighton Photo Fringe 2020. Comprised of softly toned black and white photographs, this exhibition is situated in a two room gallery attached to curator Christine Serchia’s home. It’s a private and secluded space illuminated by soft ambient light filtering through large windows. More than anything this show has highlighted the egocentric nature of the ‘group’ show and how exhibitions involving multiple artists often become a contest between separate agents all jostling for attention. ‘To Skim a Stone’ merges Erhard, Jonas, and Cameron’s works in a cohesive exhibition, void of image labels, that views as a singular entity whilst instilling an attentiveness within the viewer as they gradually differentiate the artists based on idiosyncrasies.
Throughout Serchia gallery the participating artist’s photographs are scattered intuitively across the walls, whilst two of Jonas’ previously published books appear on windowsills and a vitrine containing various test prints, small objects and ephemera, and, notably, a stone circumambulated by a swirl (we’ll return to that stone later on). All photographs included in this show are shot in black and white and, in one way or another, have a connection to the landscape. Teju Cole’s dangerously overused quote ‘to touch is to be touched’, resonates with these artists. Their vision is one of sensitivity and responsiveness to place whilst simultaneously depicting the reverse of this in the form of impressions left on a topography. These impressions on a landscape range from nature’s impact on itself to human impact in the form of flattened grass, rock formations, a cemetery which the land is beginning to reclaim and a swirling sketch on a rockface (mirroring what appears on that stone). The subject matter reflects the very nature of photography here as we are presented with the impressions of things passed.
Photography’s relationship to time, as well as photographic vision and materiality become subjects in themselves here; deep time and the fleeting come together cohesively. Heavy natural rock formations worn away by the tides appear amongst images that capture ephemeral flames below a cauldron or the stunningly captured moment a hurtling wave becomes a static spine of water. Meanwhile numerous images channel our vision in much the same way as the rectangular frame of the photograph. Rock formations surround the perimeter of the image, drawing the eye towards nothing more than void spaces. As for photographic materiality, this comes to our attention through the variation in scale and mounting between the images. The majority of prints have been magnetically pinned to the wall, but on rare occasions some partially curl up from the wall, thus exposing their dimensionality. Other photographs reside in frames that satisfyingly complement the individual images (the colour of these frames and their mount are the only inclusion of colour in the show), whilst Jonas’ previously published book, ‘Let’s Sketch the Lay of the Land’, appears to be unfurling itself from one frame vacant of glass that lies on the window sill. In one way or another our attention so regularly alternates from one mode of presentation to the next that it is not only documented subject matter that is observed here.
Images ebbing and flowing in both presentation and sequencing, the exhibition becomes charged with movement. Moving from one image to the next seemingly culminates with a wooden vitrine that lies in the center of the second room. Although there is no particular narrative to this exhibition and the vitrine isn’t necessarily an epilogue there remains, in hindsight, a feeling that we have followed a restless path from the image of a stone to the actual one presented in all its physicality. However, this following of a stone isn’t apparent during the experience of the show; instead, we bounce from image to image never feeling like we are following a predictable path but rather one with its own momentum – until we reach the vitrine and see the distinctive and motionless stone resting in the depths of a clear barrier we can see through but can’t quite penetrate. Consider Pablo Picasso’s 1930’s sculptures which Herbert Read described as ‘drawing’ through his use of ‘space cages’ and then it becomes hard not to see this vitrine as metaphor for both a body of water and the photograph: a framed perspective of a physical object, held within a container of vision, a vessel which facilitates seeing but nothing more.
The show is accompanied by a reading list that has clearly influenced this trio of artists, ruminating on time, movement and memory in relation to nature, place, history, cycles and assembled fragments that amass to a whole. While the texts would no doubt deepen any visitor’s appreciation of the show, this is already a rich and intimate exhibition, and the texts are not integral to its viewing.