The chaotic beauty of Jeremy Everett’s images

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Ribbons of light sweep across a canvas; a pixelated pineapple floats down the Seine; images blend and fade in Everett’s The Warm Parts

“I enjoy art when it is dysfunctional. Working with a message seems more connected to advertising,” said Jeremy Everett in a 2015 interview with Autre magazine. It is a statement that seems to encapsulate his work; work that defies definition and, instead, functions in multiple ways. It turns inward, delving into the materiality of the mediums from which it is made, and outward, creating a sensory experience for viewers. Ribbons of light sweep across a canvas; a pixelated pineapple floats down the Seine; images blend and fade; melting colours and spectral shapes; layer upon layer of tone and texture. 

Entering Everett’s exhibition The Warm Parts at Webber Gallery (now closed due to Covid-19 but which remains viewable online), every work encompasses such layers: visceral depths of colour and form, echoing one another from piece to piece. “I wanted life to fill the show,” explains Everett, and it does, partly as a result of the exhibition’s formal richness but also from the energy that floods through each work. Nothing is static or dry. Instead, it moves – canvases, which feel permeable, absorbing elements of the space and the individuals who move through it. 

© Jeremy Everett, courtesy Webber Gallery.

This is That literalises this, almost. A rectangular piece of photosensitive paper crumpled into a frame, its blue colour lightens from top to bottom. “It is a photograph I took on film of the gallery wall at a certain time of day,” explains Everett, “then I printed it to scale and half jammed it into the frame, which I love.” The work freezes a moment, a square of light that once illuminated the white wall upon which it now hangs. Elsewhere, Buried Cheerleaders 0001.1 and 0001.2 absorb external elements differently. Light does not permeate them; the earth, in which Everett buried them, does. The pair of photographs comprise two of the 24 images that compose his ‘buried pictures’: a series of textured stills produced by encasing found and archival photographs in the ground at sites in California, New York, Paris and London, before excavating and rephotographing them. The result is unique. The life-size prints overwhelm the wall, revealing the intricate marks inscribed by the earth amid them.  

The show takes its name from an exhibition Everett put on in Los Angeles beneath the bonnet of his car. Finding himself in LA amid Covid-19 without a vehicle, Everett swapped a painting for an old Mercedes, the hood of which opens to be completely vertical. “I thought, ‘That’s an incredible place to hang a piece of art,’ and I checked Chantal Webber’s car [founder of Webber Represents who owns the same Mercedes] and her hood went vertical too,” he remembers. “Then I thought if we park the two cars side by side, pop the hoods, and hang photographs in them, we could do a show anywhere: outside a parking lot, or the beach, and fill the trunk with ice, put a bunch of beer in it, and have a Covid-friendly opening.” And that is what they did.

© Jeremy Everett, courtesy Webber Gallery.
© Jeremy Everett, courtesy Webber Gallery.
© Jeremy Everett, courtesy of Webber Gallery.

“I called the show The Warm Parts because we displayed the work above an engine,” continues Everett, explaining the phrase also felt connotative of the warmth of another’s body so absent in the time of Covid-19. And, in the context of the London show, descriptive of the second room of the gallery space, which, before the pandemic, housed the Webber agency and gallery staff: “It is like the engine, the engine of the whole thing with everyone working.” 

Diptychs, which Everett refers to as “warm prints”, now fill that space: photographs, many of which he originally shot for editorials, printed on delicate vellum and coated in oil, causing the images on the front and back to blend. A snake twisting atop grey gravel alongside a thick silver chain; shimmering tiles accompanying curling ripples of water; grainy denim next to a plume of peachy light shooting up into the sky. This work, and indeed the work throughout the exhibition, exudes warmth. Layers and layers and layers of colour and lines which, despite their variation, seem rhythmic. A “dysfunctional” visual feast of sorts; a sensory experience which slowly consumes you as you observe it. 

© Jeremy Everett, courtesy Webber Gallery.

The Warm Parts can be viewed here

Hannah Abel-Hirsch

Hannah Abel-Hirsch joined British Journal of Photography in 2017, where she is currently Assistant Editor. Previously, she was an Editorial Assistant at Magnum Photos, and a Studio Assistant for Susan Meiselas and Mary Ellen Mark in New York. Before which, she completed a BA in History of Art at University College London. Her words have also appeared on Magnum Photos, 1000 Words, and in the Royal Academy of Arts magazine.