Juliette Blightman at O-TOWN HOUSE (Contemporary Art Daily)

O-TOWN HOUSE is a space located in the beautiful and historical Granada Buildings, with its own long history or discourse-changing art spaces since the 1960s. The legendary Gallery 32 was one of them and one of the first gallery spaces to ever exhibit works by artists like Betye Saar and David Hammons. George Hurrell the legendary photographer had a studio here in the years from 1929 well into the 1950s and photographed just about every Hollywood luminary in it.

Since 2005, Scott and I have worked together on a number of projects and exhibitions. The first exhibition Scott came to see of mine was on my twenty-fifth birthday in London. The show consisted of two 16mm films projected one after the other, both filmed in my father’s home in Oxford. In the second room a plant was on the windowsill framed like a film, looking out onto a street. Scott has supported my work from the very beginning, the continued dialogue between us about my practice and the notions of exhibiting it, as well as our personal relationship, is fundamental to this exhibition RELATIONS.

Having the opportunity to show these portraits of our mutual friends from cities such as; London, Berlin, Basel and LA – many of these cities either Scott or myself have lived in, therefore spent numerable times in – allows time to be created. Time between myself and my subject, the subject and the moment of the photograph I have worked from, the time the audience is invited to spend with the paintings and the life the works will have once the exhibition has come to an end.

RELATIONS is the first part of a series of three exhibitions, the second will take place in London and the third in Vienna. Each exhibition will consist of portraits and interiors. It is unlikely anyone will see all three exhibitions, therefore memories of the images that I, Scott or anyone else shares, will seem familiar. Blurring the boundaries of what is fictional and what is real.

Since my early 16mm film work from 2005 I have been making portraits, whether they are of someone’s toilet, someone’s face or my own daughter. With the film 2012 (2014) I documented a year of my life and all the places, people and artworks my daughter and I experienced. This film, along with Time and Death (and some say sex) (2015) and Portraits and Repetition (2017) depict my life through montage enabling me to include films, text, photographs, paintings and drawings.

During the opening I will read extracts from my publication Scripts, Descriptions and Texts 2011 – 2016 – this book consists of descriptions of exhibitions, which may or may not have happened, the concentration of the reading gives a different atmosphere, and whilst I read, it allows viewers to stay with the works and spend time amongst them, begin to feel like the people depicted in them or feel they are present.

Each painting is taken on my iPhone, from a photograph a friend has sent me or from social media. The subject or interior is someone or somewhere I know and spend time with/in. They are either of my own every day, friends every day, outside on their phones or inside their own home/office. From being in situ in each exhibition space – another layer of time is added onto the portraits as I play with the idea of time and relation to subject, object, technology and fiction.

This capacity, which is the most familiar to us, is associated with time, with the history of the subject and with language. With it arise the very figures of subject and object, clearly delineated and maintaining a relationship of exteriority to each other. (Suely Rolnik)

– Juliette Blightman, December 2018

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It was serendipity that brought James Benning’s exhibition, 31 Friends (October), to O-Town House just before Juliette Blightman’s exhibition RELATIONS. I had introduced James and Juliette at a bar in Berlin many years ago. They became fast friends, and I guess I wasn’t surprised. I liked them both immensely, so that should have been enough, but when I saw how they got along, I then was able to see their work all over again for the very first time. James was not just a structuralist filmmaker whose durational films demanded a new, more intense kind of looking, and Juliette’s time-based, media-specific, and sometimes even weather- conditional works were so much more than just poignant, aesthetic exercises. My observation of this blossoming friendship showed me that both James and Juliette were tapped into a unique mode of collating our realities. Even with nearly 40 years between then, I witnessed a kinship that was located in a yearning: a yearning for exactly that kind of kinship.

Like James, Juliette is a documentarian – a looker and a listener – but instead of narrating a story, she enables a new space for discovery – away for us to find and write the story ourselves. The way her works unfold beckon our attention. Insist on more time. Implore us to linger in the in-between. The unsaid. There is a generosity inherent to allowing (demanding) time be spent. Here the durational becomes less punishment and more privilege. Suddenly we can relish this fleeting suspension in the ephemeral. Things shift. We can almost taste our own experience of things.

Juliette started as an artist working primarily in film. Her films at the time, shot on 16mm, located their own medium (dated as i may have been already) as a means to suspend time by counting it. Her filmic narrations (static shots through a window or of a painting on a museum wall) revel in the ordinary and the familiar: usually unremarkable vistas.

“By focusing on details, texture, and the non-event, and making this ephemeral substance the subject of a practice, a displacement of relations between centre and periphery occurs.”
– (Kirsty Bell in Scripts, Descriptions and Texts 2011-2016)

Juliette’s paintings embody a remarkably similar staycation in the fleeting. Lovers (real or imagined), friends and family all materialize like our own sketchy memories. Whether or not we can identify and name the individual subjects is completely irrelevant because they seem so familiar. The paintings capture what could be chat-histories or photo-streams. There is something universal about this collection of people – photographs from a recent holiday: perhaps on an island, or a road trip. Late nights of excess ending in long afternoons of lounging. Mentors, idols and proxy-father-figures. All of the improvised patterns of leisure as quiet byproducts within a greater narration of life.

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