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"Moyra Davey: Life without sheets of paper to be scribbled on is masterpiece" opens at Camden Arts Centre
Moyra Davey, Still from Les Goddesses, 2011. HD video with sound, 61min. ©The Artist.

LONDON.- Canadian artist Moyra Davey (b.1958) works across photography, film and writing to create intimate visual essays on time and matter in the everyday. Moyra Davey opened at Camden Arts Centre on 11 April and admission is free.

This exhibition surveys parallel conceptual threads of her practice as they intersect, diverge and feed into one another. Davey’s reading and writing is inseparable from her visual work, integral to her practice both as process and outcome. Reluctant to over produce or use up resources, she mines her photography stock, repurposing and recycling past photographs and the authors, theorists and philosophical figures who fascinate her reappear time and again. For this exhibition she has revisited earlier works, recontextualising them alongside more recent projects.

In her essayic films, Davey narrates histories and anecdotes from books, intertwining them with autobiographical stories and reflecting on her relationships with her family, literary influences, psychoanalysis, travels and her environment. In Fifty Minutes (2006) Davey constructs a self-portrait of sorts, exploring her haphazard reading list and contemplating her years spent in psychoanalysis, while Les Goddesses (2011) is absorbed in the lives of the writer and political activist, Mary Wollstonecraft, and her daughters, interweaving episodes from their untamed youth with recollections of her own sisters. Davey’s most recent film, My Saints (2014), interprets a passage of Jean Genet’s The Thief’s Journal alongside images of Davey and other actors hiding hundred-dollar bills in books, revealing a tense relationship with concealment and deception. The films oscillate with ease between autobiography, rigorous self-scrutiny and historical enquiry.

Two new editions of recent photographic series, Of Jane… (2014) and Subway Writers (2013) have been made for the exhibition. In their repetition and seriality, Davey’s photographs refuse the revered position of the individual art object; instead becoming episodes of an idea as she works through it. The photographs have been folded and posted directly to Camden Arts Centre; creased, stamped, scuffed and marked, the ‘mailers’ retain a physical record of their journey.

Understated and often melancholic, her seemingly modest works elevate the banal and mundane to engage with complex themes. Reclaiming a practice of photography stemming from contingency and accident, her camera often turns towards the overlooked discards and detritus of daily life. The accumulation of dust, stacks of books or piles of newspapers record the slow passing of time; Davey’s photographs in turn depict the unrushed contemplation of the world around her.

Moyra Davey was born in Canada in 1958 and now lives and works in New York City. She studied at Concordia University in Montreal, the University of California in San Diego and participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York. She has exhibited widely internationally. Her solo exhibitions include Hangmen of England at Tate Liverpool, 2013, Speaker Receiver at Kunsthalle, Basel, 2010 and Long Life Cool White, 2008 at the Harvard Art Museum. She has also participated in numerous group shows including the Whitney Biennial, New York and New Photography at MoMA, New York. Her work is in major public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, MoMA, New York and Tate Modern.

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