Creative London: Holly Birtles, Photographic Artist

1F Opera Series, Yuri, 2011 (c) Holly Birtles1G DR Feel Bad, Robert, 2014 (c) Holly Birtles1G DR Feel Bad, Robert, 2014 (c) Holly BirtlesUntitled Trip, 2015 (c) Holly BirtlesOn Growth and Form page 24, 2015 (c) Holly BirtlesOn Growth and Form page 84, 2015 (c) Holly BirtlesUntitled Trip, 2015 (c) Holly BirtlesI Carried A Watermelon, 2015 (c) Holly BirtlesCameron EU Resignation, 2016 (c) Holly BirtlesHMS Antelope Explodes, 2016 (c) Holly BirtlesLolo, EU Voting 2016 (c) Holly BirtlesYe Slapstick Daisy (c) Holly BirtlesYe Slapstick Daisy (c) Holly BirtlesYe Slapstick Daisy (c) Holly BirtlesYe Slapstick Daisy (c) Holly BirtlesYe Slapstick Daisy (c) Holly BirtlesKaspar Hauser (c) Holly Birtles

Today sees the launch of Holly Birtles‘ latest exhibition, I Keep My Expression In My Nose, at Dalston’s Doomed Gallery, East London.

Birtles’ arrived in London in 2005, to study BA Hons Photographic Arts at Westminster University, followed by an MFA Fine Art at The Slade School of Art, and now works as a photography lecturer at University Centre Farnborough. Her photography presents dialogue through image manipulation, and pairing with sculptures created with clay or inflatables. The childhood dream was to be either a photographer or a gladiator, “I am glad I chose to be a photographer.”

What has been your career path so far?

Teaching photography to a range of ages and levels, currently level 3 and Degree photography. Running Arts clubs, working in art shops when studying, including The London Graphics Centre and Atlantis Art Materials. Joining a book collective, BBB Collective, who have shown in London, Newcastle (The Baltic) and Norway. Collaborating with musicians, book makers and performers. Working with/running workshops, and collaborating with patients at Great Ormand Street hospital that have brain injuries. Working with The London Brain Project. Exhibiting in the UK, predominately London. I’ve also shown work in China, Malta, Norway, USA and Germany.

What are the tools of your trade? 

Analogue film photography (medium format 6 x 7 cm Mamiya RB67). Photographic studio lighting. Dark room experimentation, paired with sculpture drawings using inflated objects such as: giant swans, balls and rubber rings. Software: Adobe Photoshop, Indesign and Premier. Mark making includes graphite, paint pens, fine drawing pens & acrylic paint.

1G DR Feel Bad, Gordon, 2014 (c) Holly Birtles

1G DR Feel Bad, Gordon, 2014 (c) Holly Birtles

Previous bodies of work have dealt with extremities of human emotions, portrayed through experimental performance techniques. For example, 70s British rock band, Dr Feel Good, expressed negative words on repetition (project: Dr Feel Bad), sax player Terry Edwards repetitively playing a C sharp, and most recently I constructed a body of work in response to an experimental science fiction poem by DJ Pangburn, called Ye Slapstick Daisy. A Brooklyn-based writer, working in interactive fiction and journalism, Pangburn’s interactive audio-visual poem explores an artificial intelligence, speaking and displaying a ritualistic combination of computer commands.

With this poem, I mimicked similar techniques from the Dr. Feel Bad series based on repetition, and the James Lange Theory of Emotion, which insinuates that the performance of an expression causes emotional activity, only after cognitive evaluation of the event. The subjects include musicians, artists, volunteer models and operatic singers. Each subject expressed lines from the poem on repetition, some sung, some shouted, and some softly chanted.

Ye Slapstic Daisy x 3 (c) Holly Birtles

Ye Slapstic Daisy, Justine, Joe & Daisy (c) Holly Birtles

What are you working on at the moment?

I Keep My Expression In My Nose – a series of images and stop frame animations, using photographs and sound recordings taken from performances, later to be transformed into large scale portraiture. The series will be constructed through research based on memory, trauma and reconstruction in relation to photography. Through research performances, later to be shot on medium format film. Collaborating with neuroscientists, musicians, performers and artists, the performances constructed are often of a dark, yet humorous nature. They will memorise, fictionalise and perform using alternative expressive means of communication.

Performances include organised operatic chants, repetitious conducting, chanting with false noses, chanting within and around inflated sculptural objects, and wearing cake as a hat. Each frame is digitally edited using manipulation techniques and later printed in the dark room or as a large scale digital c-type. Images are then collated and translated into film, purely constructed from stills. The film is narrated with a montage of traumatic stories that have been donated anonymously.

Holly Birtles | I Keep My Expression In My Nose
27th – 30th October | Private View 27th (6-9pm)
Doomed Gallery, 65/67 Ridley Road,Dalston, E8 2NP



Indo, Whitechapel

Holly Birtles’ Top 5 London (and Suffolk)

To Eat: Tayabs, Whitechapel. The best fish curry!

To Drink: Indo, Whitechapel – staff, regulars and art on the walls

To Party: Indo, whitechapel – staff, regulars and art on the walls

To Walk: Aldeburgh, Suffolk  – on the beach. Always loved it there, peaceful, cold swimming and seafood.

To Shop: I dont know