Paper Geographies

Artists: Alan Jones, Ryan Moule, Polly Palmerini, David Penny, Yan Wang Preston. 

Curated by Richard Page. 

Paper Geographies presents five archaeologies of place: A three-century old daqing tree, uprooted and relocated to a new and unfamiliar landscape: An ancient Grecian column toppled by a gust of wind: A melancholic collection of empty packaging casings: Ruptures in the post-industrial Welsh landscape: Evidence of the mythic beasts of European folklore. Each posits relics that are fragile testimonies of memory, history, movement and time. Place and photography are both presented in a flow between stasis and movement.  

Five artists are brought together to consider the lost objects of natural and human histories through the materiality of the photographic image. The artists presented here work with and through the expanded field of photography. Whether chemical-analogue processes, sculptural intervention or the static gaze of the topographic camera, this exhibition eschews permanence. Presenting a series of traumas and traces, artworks allude to the ephemeral, melancholic nature of time and erasure, and our attachment to history that takes place at the level of myth. Collectively the photographic works in this exhibition present a cautionary vision of the future – echoes from a civilisation to come. 

Yan Wang Preston’s large-format photographs depict Frank, a giant tree unearthed from an ill-fated landscape in China’s Lijiang Perfecture and sold to a new hotel complex. David Penny’s sculptural works replay the moment a gale in 1852 brought to the ground an ancient column at the Temple of the Olympian Zeus in Athens. Alan Jones’ photographic prints, made with out-of-date analogue materials, depict the sculptural contours of packaging materials that once encased consumer items during shipment. Ryan L. Moule presents unique collodion photographic plates, chemically unstable and enigmatic objects that render the post-industrial landscapes of his childhood. Polly Palmerini presents an assemblage of staged and found imagery, in the search for two mythical beings, the French Tarasque and Greek Chimera, bringing together fragments found in archives of local history and folklore.  

Paper Geographies is a project curated by Richard Page, now in its third iteration presented for Format Festival 2023. The project brings together emerging and established artists who explore themes of place and materiality through a range of photographic practices. Each propose a critical relationship to our sense of place whether local or global, real or imagined. The first Paper Geographies exhibition was at Manchester’s Central Library in 2020, with a second iteration at Atelier Alonso during the Arles Photography Festival in July 2022.  The project has presented over 25 artists’ work across the three exhibitions, many from across the School of Art and Digital Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University.