© Arthur Evans

Photograph by Arthur Evans for MGM's "Blow-Up"
(courtesy Philippe Garner)

Antonioni's Blow Up

London 1966 - a photographer, a woman, a mystery...

"I always mistrust everything which I see, which an image shows me, because I imagine what is beyond it. And what is beyond an image cannot be known." - Michelangelo Antonioni

"Blow-Up" (1966) was Antonioni’s first film in English and was to become one of the most important films of its decade; a seminal encapsulation of the vibrant and bohemian London scene in the mid-1960s. It was a cult film and even today, on its fortieth anniversary, continues to influence many contemporary artists and filmmakers.

At the heart of "Blow-Up" is photography itself. The lead role is that of a fashion photographer, played by David Hemmings, who takes a sequence of photographs in a London park, apparently of a young woman, played by Vanessa Redgrave, in a tryst with her older lover. He realises, however, on examining the film that their furtive behaviour perhaps hides a secret when he spots what appears to be a body in one of the photographs. However, the more he enlarges the image the more blurred and indecipherable it becomes. The film is a voyage in which the protagonist starts to doubt both what he actually saw, and his photographic record of it, as fact and fiction are ever more ambiguously intertwined.

The film marked an extraordinary exchange of inspirations between photography, film and painting; a complex web which was at the heart of so much of the visual culture of London in the mid-sixties. For the first time since the movie's production, the paintings of Ian Stephenson, which were a powerful influence on Antonioni when he first came to London to make the film, will be brought together with the rarely glimpsed Don McCullin photographs, which Antonioni submitted to the artist as a stimulus for his painterly response. Two of Ian Stephenson's paintings will be in the show "DIORAMA SS.3.67," 1967 and "Still Life Abstraction D1," 1957.

The exhibition will centre on twelve photographs taken by Don McCullin for Antonioni of the park scene, as if through the protagonist's camera. Other photographs, taken on set by Arthur Evans, will be grouped in sections which correspond to key sequences in the film. Some concentrate on the photographer's act of photographing a specific fashion model and group of models in his studio, others focus on the enigmatic documentation of the park, the later encounter with the unwitting "heroine", and finally the process - in the dark room and studio - of rendering and disclosing the overlooked secret object.

In its meditation on photography and human identity in an image-saturated age, the 1966 film Blow-Up reveals itself as one of the great sources of post-modern fictions.

The exhibition is curated by Philippe Garner and David Alan Mellor.

Exhibition: 21 July - 17 September 2006
Gallery hours: Mon-Sat 11 am - 6 pm, Sun noon - 6 pm

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