A Glass Darkening

Pheonix Arts, Leicester, May 2006

Exhibition Text By Hugo Worthy

John Vincent’s photography explores modern sensibilities and their Gothic overtones. His work develops traditions of horror and the supernatural in writers and artists such as Horace Walpole, the painter Henry Fuselli and Bram Stoker. John Vincent infuses his vision of the modern world with a sense of foreboding and anxiety derived from their peculiar sensibilities. Vincent’s depicts locations across Europe, from Transylvania, long home of Gothic fantasies to his native Letchworth, rather less rich in esoteric lore. But to all areas he brings a malign undercurrent that underpins his vision of the world. His images of the clean surface of water and the mulch underneath capture this preoccupation with submerged decay.

There is something grotesque and unnerving about the contrast between surface of water and what lies beneath it. Throughout Vincent’s work as a painter, filmmaker and photographer he explores our layered modern life, peeling away the surface to reveal something darker beneath. In all the images there is a suggestion of narratives, of goings on in the corner of our eye, things amiss with the world. White vans take on a sinister aspect as the vehicle of abductors and serial killers, teenagers transplanted from an urban context into the wilderness, contemporary graffiti on aged barn doors, a rope swing that becomes a noose. Vincent portrays a world that is uncomfortable with itself. In almost all of the pictures something resonates uncomfortably, as in the image of a horse in a field of corn. Ostensibly it is an image of rural bliss, but the speed blur on the top of the image reveals the industrial invasion of this bucolic idyll.

A recurrent theme for Vincent is the intrusion of technology into our lives and its mixed consequences. He is an enthusiast for technical innovation, but is attuned to the dislocation it can create for many of us. One of the most significant impacts of technology has been increased mobility and in this series of works he draws together images from across Eastern Europe and the United Kingdom. What is most remarkable is that they are virtually indistinguishable. The anxieties of modern life are the same in rural Romania as they are in suburban England. The moments of unexpected beauty too are very similar.

Though most of the images are technically brilliant, Vincent has abused the medium to create startling results. His photograph of a subway dramatically granulates the image and in earlier works motion denies a clear focus to the image. These technical devices shift our perception of the work and suggest the fallibility of his medium.

This is a body of work that accumulates significance when shown together. It depicts a world that is both beautiful and subtly out of kilter.

A Glass Darkening
Pheonix Arts (Leicester Gallery Offsite Project)
May 2006
Curated By Hugo Worthy