Ryecroft Avenue Exhibition

A photographic exhibition exploring death and loss in a suburban house. Miranda Hutton’s new body of work ‘Ryecroft Avenue’ has been made in response to the death of her father earlier in the year and the clearing and selling of his estate. The exhibition will be located in his house; her family home. The exhibition will also include ‘the rooms project’ – a body of work made between 2004 and 2016 which also considers ideas around place, absence and memory. #rycroftave

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The Collected

This contemporary art exhibition begins with the work of award-winning Magnum Photographer Mark Power and brings together the collected work of practitioners from Canterbury Christ Church University’s Media, art and design department. For the gallery visitor, the diversity of media utilised will be immediately apparent: painters, printmakers, photographers, sculptors, filmmakers and sound artists will all contribute.

The embracing of such diverse artistic disciplines week to provide a dynamic conversation both across and between the various media.

Reflections on Absent Presence

Miranda Hutton’s photographs cause one to stop – not just to look, but also to pause in thought as one takes in the emotions held suspended in the different bedrooms depicted. There is a sense that tightly held feelings are caught in the neatly made beds, the overflowing cupboards, and the postcards and sketches tacked onto the walls. These details beckon us to connect with the private sphere of each bedroom as we begin to imagine the flickering presence of the person who inhabits the space.

We are drawn in, but also held. It slowly becomes apparent that these are not lived-in spaces, but rather museums of a life once lived. The deceased children who used to inhabit them are kept alive through their rooms, preserved as they were at point of death. As we gaze into the heart of these private familial domains, there is a sense that we are invited, not to recoil in terror at their loss, but to honour this proud form of commemoration and get to know the person who lived there. The living and the dead are held entwined in their own self-reflection.

Bright light streams in from the windows and casts its luminosity over the gathered objects. This light invites a sense of movement and of hope; of a future that will carry the memory of those who are absent with it. The photographs form part of this medium of commemoration, extending the person to others. They are a document of the ways in which people recall, commemorate and remember, and a means by which we may reflect, beyond the confines of rooms and objects, on the absent presence of those we have lost.

Portraiture and the Power of Spaces

It is the knowledge of the death of the occupant that creates a tangible sense of absence in Miranda Hutton’s The Rooms project as the viewer then attempts to read emblematic clues or traces to associate with a lived presence of the named subject amid his or her possessions arranged in each room.

Hutton began thinking about the physical spaces left by loved ones who have passed away ten years ago when a close friend died of cancer. The series was instigated before beginning her MA and the course has provided an opportunity to focus on, and move her project forward. She has made contact with parents who have lost a child, interviewed them and photographed each room. Hutton, who quickly realized the emotional importance of leaving these rooms as they were lived in, describes her project as ‘an exploration of loss and memory’.

Vernacular photographs have long had an important part to play in personal commemoration and contemporary artists including Christian Boltanski have powerfully used photographs and personal belongings to explore death and absence. Brenda Beban’s The Miracle of Death (from Charlotte Cotton, The Photograph as Contemporary Art, 2004), where the artist photographs a brown box containing the ashes of her deceased partner in various rooms of the house they shared together, makes another useful point of reference for Hutton’s work.

The pictures could equally be described as being about portraiture and the power of the spaces we inhabit and the things we gather around us to say something about who we are, though we are not actually physically seen. There is a distinct sense, in the uneven tilt of a lamp shade, a hand written note stuck to the wall or a pair of trainers left by the bed that these spaces have only recently been left will soon be returned to, each room frozen en abyme of the photographic image itself.

However, as Hutton points out, her images are records of a single moment in a slow and complex process of change, grieving and healing.