Virgin Mary. Supermarkets. Popcorn.
4 September 2020 – 7 March 2021
Through pop art, bright colours and dark humour, British artist Miles Aldridge makes us flinch. His images are reminiscent of film stills: frames snatched from a broader story, pictures noted for their vibrant colours in smartly styled sets with an unsettling psychological vibe. Aldridge is a contemporary artist with a unique talent for inspiring the viewers to ask themselves questions. ‘In my work there is always a push and pull between high and low art’, says Aldridge. Now opening Virgin Mary. Supermarkets. Popcorn. Photographs 1999 to 2020 at Fotografiska Stockholm.
Have you ever experienced life as a charade? The constant display of social conventions that society demands of us. All these masks we wear so others see us as successful and accomplished. Miles Aldridge has a special eye for these absurdities, disguising them in colourful beauty, and then elevating them to thought-provoking art.
‘We live in an illusion of control in our lifestyle focused on consumption and social medias. A Utopia we’ve created to achieve a fictional security. The truth, however, is that we have no control whatsoever. Because when life comes at us quick, and surprises us with things like disease, social injustices, riots, and pandemics, we’re incredibly vulnerable and stand defenceless. These are facts that my images focus and highlights on through the use of grand colours, carefully chiselled details, and a certain cynical dark humour’, says Aldridge.
Aldridge rose to prominence in the mid-nineties with his arresting, highly stylised photographs with references to film noir, art history, and pop culture. An acclaimed colourist, Aldridge renders elaborate mise-en-scènes in a palette of vibrant, acidic hues. These glamorous, frequently eroticised images probe society’s idealised notions of domestic bliss, where sinister undercurrents swirl beneath a flawless surface. Aldridge has worked prolifically for more than twenty-five years, and today he remains one of the few photographers still shooting predominately on film.
The exhibition Virgin Mary. Supermarkets. Popcorn. Photographs 1990 to 2020 now opening at Fotografiska Stockholm 4 September 2020-14 February 2021, will be his biggest retrospective yet with more than 80 images including series like (after Cattelan), in collaboration with artist Maurizio Cattelan. ‘The exhibition sees itself as a best-of from Miles’ oeuvre, spanning the cinematically inspired tableaus to the striking, sometimes funny and sarcastic roles of women, to the iconic series Immaculée and (after Cattelan). Portraits of stars such as Sophie Turner, Donatella Versace, or Ralph Fiennes can also be seen. A smart ride through Miles´ extravagant cosmos’, says curator Nadine Barth.
Virgin Mary. Supermarkets. Popcorn. Photographs 1990 to 2020 is a collaboration between curator Nadine Barth and Johan Vikner, Exhibition Manager at Fotografiska International. The exhibition has been made in close collaboration with the artist and his galleries; Lyndsey Ingram Gallery, London, Christophe Guye Gallerie, Zurich, Reflex Gallery, Amsterdam, Fahey Klein Gallery, Los Angeles and Casterline Goodman Gallery, Aspen.
‘Fotografiska is very proud to present this exciting exhibition. With a blink and you’ll miss it amount of detail, Aldridge incorporates something in his images that creates uneasiness, something that makes the spectator to ask what is actually going on here? Sometimes with a shiver of discomfort or a smug grin of reflection over the strangeness our western culture creates. This results in the viewer, either consciously or unknowingly, carrying the ever-present feeling that nothing is as it seems. The charade that covers our secrets within layers of layers is, through Aldridge’s images, uncovered. And through them, we can share the feeling that the charade has been made transparent’, says Johan Vikner.
Born in London in 1964, the son of famed art director and illustrator Alan Aldridge, Miles’ interest in photography began at an early age when he was given a Nikon F camera by his father. He went on to study graphic design at Central Saint Martins, graduating with a BA in 1987. Aldridge initially worked as an illustrator and music-video director, before turning his attention to photography. In 1996 he began working with Franca Sozzani, the legendary editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, and their boundary-pushing collaboration would continue for twenty years. In addition to the many international editions of Vogue, Aldridge’s images have featured regularly in prestigious titles, including Harper’s Bazaar, Numéro, W, The New York Times Magazine, and The New Yorker.
His fascination with art history led Aldridge to undertake projects with several significant contemporary artists including Maurizio Cattelan, Gilbert & George, and Harland Miller. London’s National Portrait Gallery houses a large collection of Aldridge’s portraits, and his work is held in prestigious museums and institutions around the world, including: the V&A, and British Museum in London; the Fondation Carmignac, and the Palais Galliera in Paris; the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Massachusetts; and the International Centre of Photography in New York.
A recurring theme throughout Aldridge’s oeuvre is the false promise of luxury. Psychedelic interiors are furnished with the trappings of mid-century suburban comfort: gleaming kitchen appliances, candycoloured telephones, and well-groomed pets denote success. The work conflates historic and modern motifs and makes subtle reference to the art historical canon. Only rarely does he allow the real world to encroach upon the imagined realm. Through his lens, even reality appears artificial.
‘Aldridge’s visual language is unique: the precise arrangement, the awesome colours, the alliance of drama and coolness. His images are statements about the condition of our society and its stereotypes, exaggerated and artificial. But there is a deep truth in this hyper-reality. We follow the everyday and find the absurd — we embark on the adventure and find the abyss. In the end there is an icing of knowledge: we are many’, says Nadine Barth.
Aldridge develops each new photographic narrative by rendering his initial thoughts in ink or pencil sketches with washes of watercolour and pastel. These drawings and storyboards are an essential early stage in his creative process. He believes that ‘fiction and theatricality can be more truthful than documenting reality’ and translates his sketches into meticulously arranged compositions to create images reminiscent of film stills: frames snatched from a broader story.
‘To mediate what I’m trying to say through words is exceedingly difficult. But by using the mixture of photography and movie-based narratives, as well as painting, I am enabled to be immensely precise with what I want to address. To find the sweet spot of the image. The classic idea that an artist’s job is to provoke questions, rather than supplying answers, is something I live by’, says Aldridge.