Gareth Stevens reviews the work of photographer Chris Daly.

Our daily exposure to thousands of TV and internet images has led to the notion of ‘truth’ becoming a  “function of crowd dynamics, transformed into a commodity without a fixed universal definition, but instead, a mercurial metaphorical ‘price’ – which changes in real time, according to visibility and popularity in the ebb and flow of competition and survival in the Internet loop.” So says Chris Daly, who is currently exhibiting at blackShed Gallery as part of their Virtual Spaces programme.

The internet has given us the ability to instantly witness – often in real time – world events that hitherto we would only have been able to read about. However the exponential increase in people’s screen time in this century has also produced a kind of parity of experience between seeing, say, a video of a K-pop band and viewing footage of a rocket attack on Kabul. This flattening can desensitize us and lead us to build a constructed reality out of what we see – without actually being there.

Lightbox and Destiny

Daly explains that there is no hierarchy of subject matter in his work, but qualifies this by saying that whilst, on face value, the imagery appears random, there is “an aimless, yet calculated pursuit of satisfaction and control. The objective is to seduce and subvert the viewer into a satisfied gaze, visual overload and confusion.”

I have had the privilege of witnessing Daly at work. In darkness he displays grainy filmic images on a large yet cheap flat screen TV, then proceeds to take large format photographs of them. After meticulously calibrating the shots and subsequently scanning each negative to remove imperfections and dust, he prints them in a surprisingly large format, thus lifting images out of the digital mire to present them to the viewer as iconic concrete objects through which we can reflect on our largely vacuous visual worlds. 

Daly would attest that there is an inverse correlation between the sheer number of images we experience and their meaning or significance.  More than that, when the chronology always seems to be that of analogue to digital, it seems that Daly is being a contrarian by producing high-resolution, old-school, film-based photographs of pixelated digital imagery. To me this method not only satisfies Daly’s need for precision and mastery of his craft, but is also analogous with his desire to create meaning and to give us anchor points from which we can view the banality of our online world.

Whilst up until now Virtual Spaces exhibitions have been exclusively online, the gallery has actually produced a physical exhibition of the show, and so by visiting the website you can see photographs of Chris Daly’s work in situ and see just how large and powerful these photographs are.

Recent developments at blackShed

At a time when shops and gallery spaces are unsure of their future, blackShed Gallery is expanding. In December the gallery will be opening a new shop that will house a unique collection of gifts sourced from local artists, including a beautiful collection of ceramics, handmade inks and charcoal, affordable original artworks and prints from some of the artists who have exhibited at blackShed. All products will be available to purchase online as well.

To view Chris Daly’s online and physical exhibition, visit the gallery’s website. Here you will also be able to see a filmed conversation I had with the artist which expands on some of the ideas I have written about here


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