Interview with Christiane Monarchi, founding editor of the online magazine Photomonitor, curator of Photo50 at London Art Fair 2017.
The 50 works that will be presented to Photo50 gravitate around the theme chosen this year by Christiane... "Gravitas".
Gravitas is a Latin word and though it seems, does not refer to the gravity, although it has the same desinence, but refers to a virtue. The virtues of Roman Society were: Gravitas, pietas (piety), and dignitas (dignity).
Tell us ... why did you choose Gravitas?
To start, I chose this theme as I am interested in the visual representation of young people, particularly in depicting how children grow into adults today. That has been my starting point in exploring the time period of adolescence, with its associations of coming of age in contemporary society, and seeing how photographers and lens-based artists have been interested in this time period artistically.
© Photo50 - Frances Kearney, Untitled I, 2015
'Gravitas' with its Latin roots is used even today to describe someone who has a certain seriousness or solemnity to their demeanour, and yes, in ancient Roman society this refinement of one's personality was seen to communicate this important personal virtue to signify maturity, a time to take up their place as respected adults in society. As this virtue is closely linked with one's speech, manner, even physical presence - it would have been one of the most visual of the Roman virtues, a signal to the outside world of entering adulthood.
I was thinking about this idea from several angles - how does a young person signal 'maturity' today, what does this look like? How do photographers represent individual emerging adults, among the multifaceted youth cultures co-existing? One reads so many articles in the press about the perceived state of childhood and pressures of growing up, what does that actually look like now? How do family, peers, community, social media, help shape the child into the adult, and when does that finish? So many questions arise, it's been an interesting exploration into this time of development.
Photo50 Jeremy Sutton Hibbert, 'Ethan McMurdo as monk, St Ronan’s games festival, Innerleithen, Scotland on 19th July 2014.
You can defining Photo50 as a place of exploration?
What role does “Photo50” play at the fair?
Over the past several years I've always enjoyed visiting Photo50 within the London Art Fair, as a place for reflection and interaction with art on a conversational level which is different and complementary to gallerists' stands. This year visitors are invited to step into an existential space, where one can consider what it means to be coming of age, now. It's a quiet theme, I think, where each visitor may personally identify with some ideas brought by these 13 artists from their own perspectives, while touching on universal themes through photography and moving image works. Family, community, role models, play, loss, and the pure fascination of watching and arresting that fragile time between child and adulthood where nothing much may be visible at all but everything is changing.
Regarding the works on display, for many of the works presented this will be their first exhibition in London, and for some very new works this is also their global premiere, so I'm very excited to be able to unveil new works to collectors within this successful art fair as well.
Can you tell us something about the selection process of the artists ? What curatorial path did you follow?
In the past five years I've enjoyed running the online magazine Photomonitor, and it has been fascinating learning about the stories and histories to the many projects that we've covered. I relish the opportunity to show artists' new work - whether online or in an exhibition - as it is such an honour to help promote new ideas to new audiences. Most of the artists showing in 'Gravitas' are living in the UK and Ireland, the area of focus for Photomonitor, and perhaps in this way it may have a European flavour - yet the stories emerging here are decidedly global and universal at the same time as they are highly personal to each artist.
Recently there have been a number of great exhibitions in London about women, motherhood, family, identity - and I wanted to create one about this special time period of adolescence. It is interesting to me to consider work by older artists looking 'in' to this time period as well as younger artists looking at this formative period in their life just having emerged from it themselves.