Richard Boll

UK Visual Artist Portraits 2 of 4: Adam Chodzko – Conceptual media artist, YBA and Saatchi 2007 ‘Sensation’ Exhibitor

Filed under Artists, Editorial Photography, Editorial Portrait, Environmental Portrait, Fine Art Photography, Location Photography, Photography Award, Portrait Photography

UK Visual Artist Portrait Series

When I first became interested in photography and started learning about well-known artists and photographers I appreciated seeing portraits of them taken by other photographers. Initially, I might not have known who these people were, but an interesting portrait can tell a visual story and open a window into that person’s world. I found it really intriguing and was curious about why that person had been photographed in a particular way. I decided to continue this rich photographic tradition, by taking a series of photographs of well-known visual artists, currently working in the UK.

Adam Chodzko

The second set of images in this series features Adam Chodzko, a Kent-based, highly acclaimed conceptual artist working across a wide range of media, including video, installation, photography, and performance, and considered to be one of the Young British Artists (YBAs). The YBAs are a group of visual artists who are noted for shock tactics, the use of throwaway materials, and wild living. They attracted considerable media coverage and dominated British art during the ‘Cool Britannia’ scene of the 90s. Chodzko’s art relies on the viewer’s imagination and personal experience to create the meaning behind his work. Using elements of science fiction, he explores the space between documentary and fantasy, conceptualism, and surrealism. His art explores the interactions and possibilities of human behaviour by investigating the space of consciousness between how we are and what we might be.

Spotted by the art collector Charles Saatchi, he was invited to take part in ‘Sensation’, the highly controversial, contemporary art exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts (London) in 1997. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, this significant exhibition drew a lot of media attention at the time and showcased work by 42 different artists, including Gavin Turk, Damien Hirst, and Tracey Emin.

The photographic concept

This time, the approach was slightly different from the previous Gavin Turk shoot, in that Adam doesn’t work out of a traditional studio. I couldn’t take shots of him working in a studio, so we focused purely on portraits. Chodzko was really good at engaging with my ideas and very clear about what would suit him. I really enjoyed the collaborative elements of this project, born from a combination of both our ideas and an open, creative discussion, that generated the final images.

1. Collaboration, crossover, and a portrait prize

The idea I had for this portrait was Chodzko being in the countryside and somehow connected with water. He then took my idea and suggested wading around in a pond holding recording equipment, because that’s the sort of thing he might do for his work. An extra element of this shot was the sound clip of the space that was produced during the shoot. You not only hear countryside sounds like birds and mosquitoes, but as we were close to a road, you also hear cars, a car stereo and a dog barking. There’s an interesting crossover between the urban and rural spaces. I requested this sound clip from the artist as it might be suitable for an exhibition of these portraits in the future. I’m pleased to report that this image went on to win third prize in the Kuala Lumpur Portrait Awards and was exhibited in Malaysia and Japan. It was great to get this extra element of exposure for this portrait.

a-photographic-portrait-of-the-conceptual-artist-adam-chodzko-in-a-pond-copyright-richard-boll

2. Wasteland in the future?

This portrait was inspired by ‘A Hunting Scene’ (1992) by Canadian photographer Jeff Wall. Wall’s photo is of two men walking into a wasteland from a road and they’re both carrying guns. It’s an image that has always stuck in my mind and Adam said that it was a photograph that he’d always liked. Chodzko suggested we put an alternative spin on it. Instead of carrying guns or an axe, he tied white bedsheets together and dragged them around in this waste ground off a main road between a car park and scrubland. There’s a feeling of an in-between, non-space and I hope that it’s intriguing for the viewer in that what has happened in the image is ambiguous and is left up to the viewers’ imagination.

the-artist-adam-chodzko-dragging-a-white-sheet-in-whitstable-kent-copyright-richard-boll

3. Whitstable in a (Wet)Suit

Another water-themed portrait was shot in the sea off the beach at Whitstable, where Chodzko lives and works. The idea surrounding this image was that the viewer can imagine that he’s just arrived on the beach and traveled from somewhere else, perhaps the strip of land that can be seen behind him across the water. Again, it’s left up to the viewer to imagine what the back story of this image might be.

a-portrait-of-the-artist-adam-chodzko-in-the-sea-in-whitstable-kent-copyright-richard-boll

Watch this space for features on 2 more visual artists, currently working in the UK that I’ve also photographed, Gordon Cheung and Jake Wood-Evans. Future plans include an extensive exhibition of the complete UK Visual Artist Portrait Photography Series.

Discover more about Adam Chodzko and his work by visiting his website and reading about the controversial 1997 ‘Sensation’ exhibition.