Identities, realities, and space: XLVI launches a graduate exhibition

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Curated from an open-call by William Lakin and Sophie Gladstone, the online exhibition features work by 38 graduates

Over the last two years of Covid-19 restrictions, educational institutions have struggled. Physical classes came to halt, students became isolated, and for many studying arts degrees, their final graduate show was cancelled. XLVI Space – a new virtual photography platform – saw an opportunity to help.

NEXUS, curated by William Lakin and Sophie Gladstone, began with an open-call for both BA and MA photography students who have graduated in the last two years. “I wanted to do an open call because I like the idea of anyone having the opportunity to send work in,” explains Lakin. Aside from displaying the graduate projects, Lakin wants to use the XLVI platform to help bring together emerging photographers. “I think it is important to view [exhibitions] as an opportunity to connect with the other people involved; these might end up being people you work with in the future, people you can exhibit with and who you are likely to bump into.”

© Ioanna Sakellaraki.
© Sari Soininen.

The graduate community behind NEXUS is a diverse one – across three separate online “rooms”, 38 different graduates exhibit their final projects, all created during the last 18 months. In room one, loosely-centred around the theme ‘Identities’, graduates such as Ligia Popławska and Wing Ka Ho analyse the ontological nature of senses and mental health, while Joel Jimenez investigates national memory through a former jail, which is now a children’s museum. Meanwhile, Ioanna Sakellaraki documents the grief and rituals of professional mourners found in the Mani peninsula of Greece. 

In the second room, ‘Realities’, the external becomes the primary visual language. Yumo Wu’s Prototype reimagines the physical capabilities of photography, as the artist pushes the digital camera and its ability to measure light. In Transcendent Country of the Mind, photographer Sari Soininen reflects on “encounters with alternative dimensions of reality and perceptions” as she navigates mental health, therapy, and hallucinations. 

© Ligia Popławska.
© Wing Ka Ho.

In the third and final room, ‘Space/place’, landscapes are the main concern. In Nqaba Shakes Mbolekwana’s The Hangover, the photographer reflects on South Africa’s troubled past, describing the unsettling history as a “hangover” looming over the present society. Along the swift current of time by Teodora Georgieva documents the industrialisation of Bulgaria, focusing on the “chemical vallery” built during the 1950’s, and the chemical waste aftermath that is “woven into the landscape”. 

The title Nexus was chosen to reflect the nebulous nature behind the final selection. “One thing that stood out was how [the photographers] made connections between disparate-looking subject matter, but in a way which served the narrative and made the viewer stop and consider these connections,” Lakin says. Strands of commonality can be felt through the rooms, as photographers working in literal isolation overlap themes, concerns, and genre. “I really enjoy the design process, especially selecting the rooms,” Lakin explains. “It is a creative process; thinking about layouts, pairings, how it will all come together.” The themes shared by the artists reflect the overall purpose of NEXUS – to bring photographers together.

Isaac Huxtable

Isaac Huxtable joined the British Journal of Photography in October 2020, where he is currently the Editorial Assistant. Prior to this, he studied a BA in History of Art at the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London.