29th August 2013

Walking into the Miles Aldridge exhibition at the Embankment Galleries in Somerset House, one is immediately struck by the clean and bright candy colours that cover each wall in the exhibition. These eye-popping shades completely encapsulate the Aldridge’s works and compliment the framing of his photographs perfectly, making this basement exhibition space surprisingly light.  Filled with vitrines of Aldridge’s polaroid’s, sketches and magazine covers, however it is, of course, the photography that really brings this exhibition alive

British born Aldridge studied Illustration at Saint Martins, moving briefly into directing music videos and experimenting with the idea of film, before eventually making the transition into photography during the 90’s. It was this experience, combined with the influences of his father, Alan Aldridge’s, graphic bright illustrations and designs, that lead Miles to create highly stylized, colourful and powerful images. Drawing inspiration from classic film directors, cinematography and Old Master paintings, Aldridge fuses together mesmerizing scenes for his images. On entering, visitors eyes are immediately drawn to ‘Pure Wonder #1’ in the centre of the main room, the shimmering black caviar that balances delicately on the models fingers are brilliantly contrasted by her sharp, fluorescent pink nails and porcelain skin.

Pure Wonder #1, 2005

Moving past this photo, the exhibition moves into focus on Aldridge’s painterly and cinematic influences. The photograph of model Lily Cole dressed in traditional costume, entitled ‘Like a Painting #1,’ reminds us of Dutch Renaissance portraits. With her red stylized hair, floral dress and foliage background reminiscent  of Botticelli’s La Primavera, and is in many respects one of the darkest works in this exhibition, the models quizzical expression emanates to the viewer a foreboding undercurrent theme to the image.

Like Painting#1, 2005

Alongside this work other images exploring the cinematic influences of Aldridge’s photographs such as ‘Actress # 6’ and the series ‘Semi Detached,’ demonstrate not only the searing colour of all his photos but contrast eloquently the differing facial expression Aldridge manages to capture. The Actress appears to be within her own explosive scene and yet completely silent to the viewer, reminiscent of a Fellini film still. This idea of explosion and breaking is a continuous theme within Aldridge’s works and nowhere better demonstrated than in the promotional photograph of the exhibition entitled ‘I Only Want You To Love Me #1.’ Whilst the model of ‘Semi Detached’ remains blank and expressionless, like many of Aldridge’s images she appears indifferent to her surroundings, deep in thought.

Actress#6, 2012

Semi-Detached #3, 2012

Lastly the exhibition comes to a climatic end on entering what I would like to call the ‘altar of Aldridge.’ This dim lit room bathed in a sea of raspberry pink is illuminated with Aldridge’s Immaculee series of 2007. The electric blues and gold’s of the models shawl and crown combined with her doll like, vacant expression, make these photographs, I feel the most haunting and powerful of the entire exhibition. Thus by using colours and imagery inspired by richly painted Old Master works, such as Cranach and the portraits of Durer, Aldridge creates a new, modern day Madonna.

Immaculee #3, 2007

This exhibition I feel perfectly encapsulates Aldridge’s work. The tension between decadent beauty and the models own expressions of hopelessness makes the viewer question the very essence of everyday society, our consumerist expectations and human flaws.

Originally written for PhotoDemocracy Blog.

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