The show is comprised of eight large-scale works that appear, at first glance, like planets suspended in a pitch-black universe. However, closer inspection reveals them to be depictions of city streets taken from the ground up. Dramatic and mesmerizing in equal measure, they form part of Newman’s long-term ’Metropoly’ project, which connects to earlier serial and typological photography, such as the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, the German artists who methodically recorded the mechanical structures of the industrial age.
In these works Newman examines a wide spectrum of architecture from across the globe, revealing the character of a city and the way it frames the sky. Modernist structures, such as those of Mies van der Rohe, frequently appear. As do contemporary buildings that also invoke the future. Due to the panoptic nature of the lens used by the artist – it was originally invented for astronomy to observe atmospheric phenomenon – slight changes in position radically alter what appears in view. Consequently, the process emphasizes a physical relationship to the world and requires searching for the precise vantage point from where everything falls into place, and the time at which to record it. All the elements thus combine to form a total landscape.
For this exhibition the gallery, which is located in the basement of a former Victorian tramshed, has been painted an intense deep blue, lending the photographs an environment evocative of a journey to another place or element. A quiet hum of science fiction envelops the show. Indeed, the space is reimagined as a vehicle itself, with the circular photographs as portholes to distant places. The atmosphere of being underground could equally be sub-marine, aboard a ship or an off-world station.
While the photographs are predominantly urban, an intriguing counterpoint is created in two of the eight works – one of an ancient redwood forest in California, and the other of the Eden Project in Cornwall. While both are viewed from the same perspective as the cityscapes, their presence suggests a way that cities might be developed in the future, a harmonising of man-made materials with nature.