Sheffield’s Graves Gallery showcases the work of a local photographer this season – Matthew Conduit’s large-scale photographic works take centre stage at LAND.
The photographs are careful and detailed, with thoroughly considered compositions. Their large scale elevates the subject matter too, from chance elements of landscape to sites of significance, historically, environmentally or simply due to their visual interest.
Matthew Conduit is originally from Nottingham, studied Fine Art at Sheffield Polytechnic and exhibited widely after his studies. He was Director at the Untitled Gallery in Sheffield in the mid-1980s and relocated the gallery to its current location in the city in 1988 which is now Site Gallery. After a break from art-making he went back to photography in the early 2000s.
The exhibition presents 20 never before seen pieces, made over the last ten years. As well as photographing around the Sheffield area, the artist also gathered newer works from along Britain’s east coast. They document both the natural scenery and still lives with found objects or ‘treasures’ that Conduit has collected on his photographic journeys.
Indeed, the series of photographs entitled Treasure features uniquely shaped pieces of driftwood, rocks and dried algae captured against a neutral background to emphasise their unique characteristics. Alum features images from extraction sites where the material was gathered and processed. The images in the series go from surprisingly colourful hills to an unassuming beach with scattered stones, yet it is the sites’ histories that draw our attention to their unique qualities.
Despite the context being an inseparable part of the works and consideration of place, time, and history playing a key part, the images themselves are also simply aesthetically alluring. From patterns of knotted branches to the striking strata of quarries, there is a romantic quality to Conduit’s photographs. This can perhaps be attributed to him coming back to the same sites time and time again, becoming intimately familiar with each setting and injecting his appreciation for these particular places into the final images.