Featuring a varied collection of his most recent works, the show explores the evolution of Cairns’ practice and his innovative ways of using alternative and experimental supports for his photographs, including tinted glass plates, e-ink screens and 35 mm transparencies.
Taking the city and urban topographies as its ostensible subject, Cairns’ imagery portrays buildings and spaces as though haunted by perpetual growth and reform. He has travelled to diverse cities around the world and continues to document the ever-changing landscape, adding to his distinctive oeuvre. He takes his photographs at night, capturing the streets devoid of passersby and augmenting an archive that reveals a familiar yet seemingly dystopian world. Over the last decade, he has evolved unique and unexpected ways of printing and transposing his images, reviving both historical processes and outdated technologies into new forms that expand the possibilities of photography today.
Cairns has visited Japan numerous times over the past two years and his stays in Osaka and Tokyo have had a direct influence on his current work. Photographs from his TYO2 series (2016), taken during his most recent trip to Japan’s capital, have been employed in his latest E.I. works (2015-present) - a collection of unique sculptural pieces that presents his images petrified within screens removed from e-readers. Due to the delicate nature of the screens, the artist has fabricated specially made Plexiglas armatures to house each of his photographs. In TYO2-LDN4, a collection of 20 new E.I. works are positioned upon plinths in the centre of the gallery, progressing a display that inaugurates a first-hand experience of these works.
In 2015, Cairns was also awarded the prestigious Hariban award, granting him the rare opportunity to learn about the collotype printing process at the Benrido Collotype Atelier in Kyoto. He has recently developed his LDN4 Collotype Glass Plates (2016), a body of work that transforms transparent collotype glass plates into tangible photographic objects. These unique works display images from the artist’s latest instalment of his LDN series, which focuses on new urban spaces in England’s capital, including Kings Cross, York Way, Stratford City and the London Docklands area. He has applied a final varnish UV spray to each of the coloured glass plates, safeguarding the permanence of the rendered image in continuous tones and extremely fine detail. Featured on the adjacent wall, a collection of 10 framed collotype prints forms his LDN4 Collotype Portfolio (2016) and presents the same images from his LDN4 series printed on Japanese Gampi paper.
In addition to his recent E.I. and collotype works, a number of vintage slide viewers also feature in the exhibition, each accompanied by a box of slides. These special works are in a limited edition of 5 with each box comprising 30 images from the artist’s TYO2 and LDN4 series, which he has employed in his presented works in the exhibition, printed on 35 mm transparencies. Manufactured by Sawyer’s, these particular binocular style viewers have a built-in light and offer a clear and natural viewing of the artist’s latest imagery. Cairns previously purchased a number of these models and began printing his photographs onto the slides, which enabled him to view his images in new depths. He has since been inspired to conceive new ways of using transparent supports for his works and his TYO2-LDN4 exhibition, on display at Roman Road from 09 March – 22 April 2017, shows the evolution of his findings.