The ground floor of Argentea Gallery is hung with seventeen black and white prints shot on location in the partial desert of Almeria, southern Spain in 2019 and 2020 during two periods at the off-grid ecological artists’ residency facility Joya: AiR. These form the core of The Writing of Stones, a clean and formal presentation of recent photographs by Gin Rimmington Jones comprising studies of remote landscapes that navigate the layers of history and change that mark them physically.
This region of Spain is distinguished by marble quarries cut into its hillsides and characterised by its baked earth, intense heat, and if these photographs are anything to go by, a sense of pandemic-resonant airlessness and isolation. Any trace of human activity within this series of work is understated, shown indirectly via the odd stray plastic bottle and instances of linear, shadowed cabling. Machine-cut rock faces and hewn blocks of marble offer alternative reminders of human intervention. Surface and texture tell tales. These images are saturated not only with issues surrounding ecology but also with the histories of architecture and sculpture production, lifting these into the viewer’s register as we move between separate but clearly interconnected works.
The artist’s preoccupation with layering recalls something of the processes used by Noémie Goudal in her large-scale photographic works. For Rimmington Jones, this means working with multiple exposures, as can explicitly be seen in Brushing the dust off, 2 and Metamorphosis, 2, that aim to reveal new perspectives, new facets of place and playfully engage with an ambiguous sense of scale. These exposures come in varying subtleties; some are imperceptible.
In a recent video interview, the artist describes her deep personal connection to this area of Spain, noting that she has “no language for this place, I’ve got no map.” She goes on to state, “it’s like you can read the landscape.” This landscape, then, is akin to a book or a tablet, taking impressions, sketches, notations and edits into itself and presenting these forms back to us for the reading. Likewise, here, in light of present national and international travel restrictions, Rimmington Jones reimagines this landscape, showing works that transport us vicariously to destinations that are now more complicated to travel to.
Downstairs in the much darker basement, meanwhile, are a broader range of photographs taken from the artist’s postgraduate research, collected under the title Somewhere among us a stone is taking notes. The stand out image within these seven is Untitled, a photograph of hanging foliage lit so dramatically that it appears almost as a light box. These works were made in Cornwall, where Rimmington Jones used to live. She describes the body of work as a love song to this place and indeed, there is a warmer, more tender quality to the resultant photographs. While not as tightly bound together as the Almeria works, with these Cornish ones Rimmington Jones’ approach again renders these landscapes altered, abstracted, stripped back to reveal certain essential elements. She defamiliarises the familiar – a feeling all too palpable within the current pandemic contexts.
Reviewed for Photomonitor by Anneka French, October 2020
At Argentea Gallery, Birmingham, until 31 October 2020