Friday, 9 January 2009

Alice Farnworth: through the pinhole

Alice Farnworth, colour print, 2008

It's easy to forget if you are an undergraduate, but we do have postgraduate students at the Aberystwyth University School of Art. These people are most often found squirrelled away down the overheated M.A. corridor, with its walls of steam pipes and mysterious sliding green doors. Even more mysterious are the Ph.D. students, their painting spaces in a secretive annexe that for a long time I had assumed was a storage area for boards. But these postgraduate creatures are, like the faeries and woodsprites, in our midst, if generally unacknowledged. They may be the friendly helpful Technician who just cut your copper plate or sorted out your Photoshop disaster. They may have been sitting in at your January assessment. A few might even have a workspace near you, in the otherwise undergraduate studios. Alice Farnworth is one such M.A. photography student. Not only does she not bite, she produces interesting work.

Alice Farnworth, colour print, 2008

Using pinhole photography, she has been producing an extended series of self-portraits with an element of the mysterious. In particular, she has been exploring the use of mirrors to produce double self portraits. These doppelganger images are, at their best, unsettling, because they do not seem to represent the old trope of woman-regarding-herself-in-mirror. Instead they seem to suggest a second self, an inner self, a secret sharer, an unwanted alternate self crawling from the subconscious.

Alice Farnworth, colour print, 2008

On a practical level, it is interesting to note that she says that her friends claim always to be able to tell which image is 'really her' and which is the reflection. A task that may prove more difficult as her sister apparently closely resembles her - yes, she has tried double familial portraits but found them less satisfying.

Every time I see her (or check the clotheslines outside the darkroom where prints dry) she seems to have produced another set of 6-8 images from another self-sitting. 'I'm looking for the one image in the series that stands out, that says something different,' she says. One day I found her fretting about a set of pictures where she discovered that a reminder to herself that she had written on her hand was clearly visible in the prints. Bizarre, indeed. That, I thought, is your different image.

William Blake, The Soul Hovering over the Body Reluctantly Parting with Life circa 1805, Tate Collection

Last week's offering produced an outstanding series of the double portraits suggestive of the soul leaving the body, reminiscent of an image of this produced by William Blake. I'm still waiting for a copy of one of this new series to post here. Do check back to this page - it's worth waiting for.

And here it is!

Alice Farnworth, colour print, 2009

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