Brian Griffin - The Water People

In his first major UK exhibition in 15 years, Britain’s greatest living portrait photographer presents the mythic tale of an aerial expedition across Iceland’s epic landscape in search of The Water People.

Brian Griffin draws on Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth in response to a commission from Reykjavik Energy, visualising the pathway of its remarkable geothermal infrastructure as a modern Icelandic saga. The adventure – retold through a surreal, filmic narrative of large-scale colour and black-and-white photographs – begins with a bizarre rooftop encounter, where he is introduced to his aircrew. And so the flight of fancy unfolds – a voyage into a netherworld of gaseous, ethereal landscapes, following a pathway of polished metallic pipelines to discover The City of the Water People, inhabited by strange, amorphous, liquid life forms.


Venue: Cafe Gallery, Southwark Park, London

Travel: Jubilee Line to Canada Water

Exhibition: 20 September – 29 October, 2006

Open: Wed – Sun from 11 am – 4 pm


Ambassador Gunnlaugsson will be officially opening the exhibition with the British Ambassador to Iceland, Mr Alp Mehmet, at a private preview on Sunday, 17th September 2006.


The exhibition combines artfully constructed portraits, utilising a specially-made screen to create a watery abstraction, together with Friedrich-inspired landscapes. Drilling bores and electricity pylons are transformed into menacing, alien elements among Iceland’s apocalyptic surface – alive with gushing waterfalls and geysers. Griffin’s heavy use of symbolism, his fictional narratives and Noirish aesthetic runs counter to the objective, documentary approach that dominates contemporary art photography. Rather than examining the world through the shield of a camera, his photography is an exploration of self.

‘The thing about Iceland is that it’s so powerful and distinctive that it breaks away from the cliche of landscape,’ says Griffin. ‘It’s so elemental, so exaggerated. You feel like you’re at the creation of the Earth.

I seem to gravitate towards the really dynamic part of Iceland - the steam and the fire and the waterfalls. But, ultimately, I was trying to photograph it as a state of mind, as a way of externalising my own feelings, rather than a landscape in itself – like self-portraiture.’


Integral to this exhibition are beautiful commemorative medals in gold, silver and diamonds, created by Icelandic artist Brynja Sverrisdottir, to recognise the pilots’ bravery in flying into the unknown and bringing Brian back safe and sound.


The book from which this exhibition is taken, titled The Water People, will have its international launch on Wednesday, 13 September 2006 from 6.30 – 8.30pm at Claire de Rouen Books, Charing Cross, First Level, 125 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EW.



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