A middle aged man in white underpants, a screen shot of an accidentally sardonic text from ‘dad’, and a close-up of teeth and gums coated in a gooey substance all feature in French artist, Thomas Mailaender’s cyanotypes. Today, Roman Road Gallery opens a solo exhibition of his latest photographic collection.
‘I mostly go for Do-It-Yourself books…After this kind of brain food, I usually feel like I could be the king of the world, and that’s the good moment for me to really start working.’ From this psychological precipice, Thomas Mailaender develops and explores innovative ways of bringing his archive of found, amateur photographs into the parameters of art. So far, this has involved Mailaender displaying images in a mini gallery space, filled with live chickens wandering around, casually observing the art. Other methods have seen Mailaender photoshopping himself into images of active volcanoes, standing in front of the volcano, whilst doing such activities as surfing, baking and frying eggs.
Continuing in this vein, the images in Prussian Blue are just as playful. These cyanotypes are presented large scale, mounted upon plasterboards that measure 250 x 120cm. The characters within the photographs — which were gathered by Mailaender either online or from European flea markets — are blurry, and distorted. In Fur Coat, the blurred cyanotype creates a comical distortion of the subject’s body size. His little head peeps out from the giant sized body, unaware of his bizarre appearance, looking earnestly into the camera lens.
The characters seem to be isolated in their own way, they seem comically, sweetly absurd and idiotic in their earnestness. The bold cyan hues employed by Mailaender seem to serve as a mischievous display, not just of human absurdity, but also of the changing parameters of found art. His bold appropriation of found images puts into question the role of the artist’s hand in historical, personal photography collections.
Thomas Mailaender: Prussian Blue is showing at Roman Road, until 25 September.