HackelBury Fine Art, London is pleased to present ‘Lost Summer’ a solo exhibition of new work by Alys Tomlinson. The Lost Summer series consists of Tomlinson ́s recent prom portraits photographed in June 2020 as lockdown eased and is accompanied by ‘Night Wanderings’, taken during lockdown as part of the artist’s daily exercise. The prom portraits capture the poignancy of a lost summer for teenagers who were unable to sit their school exams or mark this significant step in growing up and leaving school.
With school proms cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the easing of lockdown, Tomlinson photographed 44 teenagers near her home in North London, all dressed up in their prom outfits. Instead of the usual settings of school halls or hotel function rooms, she captured them in their domestic outdoor spaces, of the gardens and streets where they live. They represent a loss and longing, but also celebrate each teenager as an individual, navigating this extraordinary time. Lost Summer began as an idea when the artist was frustrated that she couldn’t travel to work on her existing projects. Once lockdown eased she began to move around her neighbourhood photographing the teenage children of local friends from her street and the surrounding area and posted them on Instagram. As word spread, so the project grew and the significance of the subject matter became more apparent as summer evolved. With the A-level results fiasco in August, this project has taken on an even greater meaning with the disruption that these teenagers now face. They have not only dealt with a lost summer but confront an uncertain future. The prom portraits are a testimony to the resilience of these young people. There is an intensity in the gaze which meets the viewer and suggests an untold narrative which is yet to be revealed. The portraits are self-assured and defiant, yet they also suggest surrender and courage. Tomlinson is interested in the relationship between people and place and in much of her work she explores the recurring themes of loss, ritual and belonging. In her critically acclaimed series ‘Ex- Voto’, portraits of religious pilgrims are often set in sacred outdoor spaces and in the ‘prom series’ these outdoor settings remind us of the calming and transformative quality of nature. The prom portraits represent a merging of two worlds – the inner and the outer, the psychological and the physical.
Alongside ‘Lost Summer’ Tomlinson will show work from her ‘Night Wanderings’ series, which focuses on night-time London during lockdown. Inspired by the American photographer Robert Adams’ series of nightscapes in the 1970s called Summer Nights, Walking, she undertook a series of wanderings where she lives in Holloway, north London. The photograph ‘Untitled 1’ taken near the Emirates Stadium contrasts the sanctuary of the home with the hazard of the street – a metaphor for lockdown living. These images are unsettling in their emptiness with figures lurking in the shadows and the artist admits to feeling uncomfortable whilst taking these photographs in deserted London streets.
Lost Summer is an exhibition of its time representing untold stories and unfinished chapters following on from the complex effects of a global pandemic on individual lives. Yet by choosing to use black and white photography Tomlinson achieves a simplicity, which give the images a timeless and ethereal quality. A book of the portraits will also be published to coincide with the exhibition. Lost Summer will be published as an edition of 500 in November 2020, with pre-orders available from October.