A Review of Night Sky Rising at Lamb Arts, London
On the Northern coastline of Mallorca, lies the idyllic beauty of Deià, yet this seemingly sombre pueblo has far more than meets the eye. Creative luminaries from the golden era of Hollywood to late 20th century novelists have all taken a well-earned sabbatical upon it's shores, most notably the poet and novelist Robert Graves, who was so taken with it's charms he never left, his house, now a fitting memoriam to the great wordsmith.
Like Graves, British born photographer Kate Bellm, after a bout of continent hopping wanderlust was so mesmerised, she too has decided to call the Balearic hamlet home. Bellm's debut solo show 'Night Sky Rising' at LAMB Arts (now until 13th January 2017) it's Deià that glistens so bright.
Approaching the gallery frontage on an unusually mild, clear November morning (perhaps Bellm has bought a taste of the Balearics with her!) one is struck by a sheer iridescent spectacle. Engulfed in subterranean indigo a pack of svelte, nymph-like beauty's ripple through the frame. It's a fine hors d'oeuvre for the show's two reoccurring themes; beauty of nature and of the feminine frame.
It's mother nature first and foremost which greets us as we enter. A population of cacti, wind-swept palm fronds, a selection of succulents and mountainous vista's are whipped into an atomised, sun licked bliss. Pink, peach & purple hues are prominent.
Playful yet observant, the photographer utilises a panoply of blending organic techniques to distort and corrode the unprocessed films original coloration through a plethora of lens filters, light leaks and even provincial saltwater. In the age of digital manipulation, it's a wonder to see that it's natures elements that come to the creative fore.
An early starter in her trade, Bellm was already in the throes of shooting fashion editorials in her teens. The lower level of the gallery captures this body of work by presenting the viewer with a scrapbook-like synthesis. Scantily clad portraits of model Lili Sumner, musician Nina Kravis & designer Christabel Macgreevey are encircled by relevant paraphernalia accumulated from her and her husband Edgar’s travels (from 80's buxom nude playing cards to the photographer's own cheeky polaroid's) which inspire and contribute to the final frame.
Evident here is the comfortability and freedom of the subject to get their kit off and embrace the lens with a lascivious gaze, no doubt the Mediterranean climate provides a helpful hand. The sororal nymphs make a welcome return here too, this time in a eternal interlocking embrace, all bare bottoms, knees and whips of blonde hair.
Even in the calmest lagoon, variables such as the lack of light, oxygen and communication can make shooting underwater a technical haphazard, yet just as the aforementioned landscapes were captured when Bellm was heavily pregnant thus limiting her mobility, it's these seeming restrictions of nature where the photographer’s creative excellence flourish.
Written by Jono Namara, a Contributor to Arteviste.