Biography

Mike Perry, born 1960, is a British contemporary photographic artist...     more

After a post graduate degree in economics and 13 years in industry, Perry left the world of commerce to focus on his art and environmental projects. He now lives between London and West Wales where he is converting a coastal sheep farm into a site for sustainable architecture and art. His work is increasingly influenced by the surrounding landscape and environmental concerns.

Perry's early large scale highly detailed colour photographs, often taken whilst driving around Britain's marginal coastal and upland regions, combine powerful painterly aesthetics with seemingly mundane locations or areas of environmental degradation.

In his Beach series 2002, the focus was an unremarkable strip of coastline on the south coast of Britain. In this series, Perry depicts neither extreme drama or beauty. His approach is resolutely objective and the repetitive nature of the work invites a meditative response. At the time, Craig Burnett suggested this work "may help to recuperate the seascape as an object worthy of contemplation in itself".

In his later work, for example Wet Deserts 2009, there is an increasing tension between the seductive surface and the underlying narrative. Formal concerns are matched by a story of environmental degradation, from the effects of continuous sheep farming on the Preseli hills in West Wales to irresponsible exploitation of pine estates on Rannoch Moor. In place of iconic shots of diminished glaciers or devastated rainforests he gives us the overlooked scrublands of Britain and Ireland's rural fringes.

The tension between seductive aesthetic and narrative is continued in his latest work, Môr Plastig 2012. Môr Plastig, welsh for 'plastic sea', is a formal 'forensic' study of plastic detritus washed up off the west coast of Wales, and more recently further afield. With this project, Perry's photography is not concerned with the campaigning rhetoric of straight environmental documentary. Rather it poetically alludes to changes taking place and what we might be leaving for future generations. His approach remains resolutely open and ambiguous.

Mike's first public show Beach was at the Photographers' Gallery in 2004, and in 2007 he was a featured artist in BBC 4's Arts Documentary, Britain in Pictures. In 2009 he won best picture at Christies of London's 25th anniversary photographic competition, and in 2012 Mike was part of the group show New Ground: Landscape Art In Wales since 1970, curated by The National Museum of Wales, including Richard Long, David Nash and Keith Arnatt. In 2013 Mike's collection of plastic shoes was on show at the Institute for Contemporary and Interdisciplinary Arts (ICIA) and selected for The National Eisteddfod of Wales 2013.

In July 2014 Perry's Môr Plastig was included in Cornelia Parker's Black and White Room at The Royal Academy of Arts, and in 2015 at the internationally curated Vita Vitale exhibition at The 56th Venice Biennale.

Perry received a Creative Wales Award in 2015, by the Arts Council of Wales and in 2016 his photographs of plastic pollution were included in Found at The Foundling Museum, London.

Solo Exhibitions

2017 - Land/Sea (Tir/Môr), Ffotogallery Touring Exhibition, England and Wales     more

2015 - Artist in Residence exhibition, National Museum Wales at Oriel Y Parc, Wales     more

Mike Perry
Coastal Currents Artisit In Residence
January 2015 - April 2015

At Oriel y Parc
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Wales
In Partnership with National Museum Wales

Mike Perry, Keep Box, Newgale, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2015
Digital print on Hanemühle Photorag paper 511mm x 430mm

In January 2015, Mike Perry was awarded the Coastal Currents Artist In Residence at Oriel y Parc, St Davids, Pembrokeshire, Wales. In partnership with National Museum Wales, the residency runs from January to April 2015 and will include a series of public events and interactions starting with a community 'beach clean' over the weekend of Saturday 31st January and Sunday 1st February. Perry will then photograph selected plastic objects collected from Pembrokeshire beaches and exhibit the work at Oriel y Parc on the 10th March to 17th April. The process is documented in a short film directed by Eilir Pierce, also released on 10th March 2015.

    Watch the residency film.

NATIONAL MUSEUM WALES
Press Release

Marine litter is focus of Môr Plastig exhibition at Oriel y Parc

Marine litter from around the Pembrokeshire Coast has been photographed in forensic detail to challenge traditional ideas of what is 'natural', for an exhibition at Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre in St Davids.

In his role as Coastal Currents Artist in Residence at Oriel y Parc, North Pembrokeshire photographic artist Mike Perry has taken plastic collected from local beaches to develop his series Môr Plastig (Welsh for 'plastic sea').

The exhibition will also draw connections with the current exhibition Natural Images - Historic Photography Uncovered, which is on display in the main gallery at Oriel y Parc.

Mike said "My work is part reflection on global consumption and the way we treat the planet but also a story of the strange new forms emerging from nature's reshaping of the man-made."

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority Arts Development Officer Kate Wood, said "We are thrilled to have been able to work with an artist of Mike Perry's stature and I'd like to acknowledge the support of The Arts Council of Wales, without which this project would not have been possible."

The plastic was collected at the end of January during a series of beach cleans with the help of Keep Wales Tidy and members of the public.

Mike selected plastic objects ranging from old flip-flops to buckets covered in barnacles, and photographed them with an extremely high powered camera allowing him to capture the fine detail and decay caused by years in the sea.

Bryony Dawkes, Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales Partnership Projects Curator, added "We are delighted to have Mike as artist in residence at Oriel y Parc. His forensic and compelling take on the coastal landscape of today makes fascinating contrast with the historic depictions of Pembrokeshire currently on show in Natural Images."

"I hope visitors will enjoy the differing and thought-provoking interpretations of landscape on display throughout Oriel during Mike's residency."

Mike has already exhibited work from his Môr Plastig series at the National Eisteddfod and the Royal Academy of Arts and new works created during his residency have been selected for display at the Venice Biennale 2015.

A short film about the residency, directed by Eilir Pierce, will also be launched at Oriel y Parc on 10th March.

Mike Perry's Coastal Currents Residency, which runs until 17th April 2015, is supported by The Arts Council of Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

2013 - Môr Plastig at ICIA, Institute For Contemporary and Interdisciplinary Arts, England     more

2007 - Inland, The Photographers' Gallery, London   more

Grid x 16, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2007

Grid x 16
Pembrokeshire, Wales 2007





Green Gorse, Ffynnonofi, Wales, 2003

Green Gorse
Ffynnonofi, Wales, 2003

Inland
21st June - 2nd September 2007
Solo show at The Photographers' Gallery, London

Inland is a series of landscapes that Perry started in 2004 in both West Wales and Ireland.

As in his Beach series, Perry set out to explore a territory between landscape photography and abstract painting. But unlike Beach - where the unstinting presence of the flat horizon provided a motif that defined the body of work as a series - these pictures are looser and less formal in their concerns, offering a more mysterious sense of place. They are also documents of environmental change and unsustainable farming practice.

Using his large-format field camera, Perry took the bulk of these photographs during the winter months in and around the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire. He avoided the twilight, or magic hour, as well as the more dramatic topography, choosing instead flatter daytime light and mundane perspectives, lending the work an overall air of melancholy and isolation. Indeed, some of the pictures were taken in the rain through his car window.

Perry also experiments with perspective, adjusting his own position to give the viewer an indecipherable sense of space. By using shorter depths-of-field and uneven horizons, he invites the viewer to experience the pictures both as formal compositions, releasing the expressive power of a patch of grass or a misty crag, while at the same time he never ignores the factual intensity of the actual locations. Indeed, whilst these landscapes at first appear empty, closer inspection reveals the impact of a human presence, be it in the form of the odd fence, traces of sheep grazing, or a path. Mainly they depict land that has become degraded by continuous sheep grazing. This is not nature in it's fullest glory but nature as it is. Or how Mike sees it. By capturing these fragments of an imperfect landscape Perry has managed to portray a powerful spirit of place without a traditional narrative, finding beauty in what others might view as the mundane.

Perry has chosen to present much of the Inland series in the form of grids and small groups of similar images. Part of the reason is his desire to show, as he did in the beach series, the infinite changes in colour and light within such a small geographical area. Whereas the beach series was taken from one stretch of mundane coast line in southern England, the Inland pictures are mainly from the hill behind his farm in West Wales. But he is also interested in the spacial engagement of the different works and has quoted Donald Judd, Olafur Elliasson and the Bechers Typologies as important influences.

In Green Gorse, Pembrokeshire, 2003, Perry frames a slab of green vegetation against a neutral white sky to provide a formal minimalist abstraction. Shooting up hill, from the coastal path, with no other form of reference it is difficult to get a feeling for the position of the artist. We could well be looking down over an emerald green rainforest as in Alex Hutte's dramatic photographs in South America. Instead, closer inspection reveals only scraggy green gorse. Maybe this tangled growth, that has taken over vast areas of coastal land due to continuous sheep grazing, is West Wales's equivalent of Europe's grand vertical forests.

2005 - Landscape, Galerie Trabant, Vienna, Austria

2004 - Beach, The Photographers' Gallery, London   more

Beach 17, 2002

Beach 17, 2002





Beach 11, 2002

Beach 11, 2002

Beach
22nd April - 5th June 2004
Solo show at The Photographers' Gallery, London

Mike Perry's photographic series, Beach, records seashore scenes from an unassuming stretch of England's South Coast. These images depict neither moments of extreme drama or beauty but do seek a resolutely objective take on the surface of the beach which is being photographed. His interest lies in depicting the surface detail of the landscape, focusing attention on the stones, sand, waves, sky and light. This exhibition will be the first major exhibition of Mike Perry's work in a public gallery in the UK.

Perry's approach and choice of subject reflects a revived interest in artistic interpretations of British landscape, a subject matter that has not, of late, been particularly fashionable. His focus lies apart from the romantic, metaphysical and realist traditions most associated with depiction of land and sea. Perry's fascination is with the actuality and understatement of his subject. Through his seemingly quiet exploration of the environment he manages to free the seascape from expectations of significance and provoke in the viewer a contemplation of the scene in it's natural beauty. Shot using a 10x8 large format camera, uncoated lens and plain Kodak film stock, Perry is able to capture the neutral, muted colours of his subject and does not employ digital manipulation to alter contrast or hue. His compositions achieve an almost painterly quality which lend tenderness and dignity befitting the coastline he has chosen to photograph.

Presented as a series, Beach establishes a rhythmic context in which repetition invites a meditative response. Similarity and difference between images are accentuated through a tightly constructed grid-like composition, reminiscent of modernist abstraction whilst remaining resolutely documentary. The scenes draw the viewer in with a gentle intensity to convey a sense of the infinite and the whole.

Group Exhibitions

2016 - Sea Fever, De Queeste Art, Belgium. Collaboration with Bruno Van Dijck, Philip Gross, Pete Judge...     more



SEA FEVERREVISITED

The Sea Fever Project is a collaboration between artists Mike Perry (UK) and Bruno Van Dijck (Belgium), including contributions from poet Philip Gross (UK) and jazz trumpeter Pete Judge (UK). It is a 'revisitation' of the John Masefield poem Sea Fever (1902) and John Ireland's classic musical score (1913).

Philip Gross and Pete Judge performing at Cwm Gwylog beach, Wales 2016


The project opens with an exhibition at De Queeste Art in Watou, Belgium, 20th November – 18th December 2016.

The exhibition includes photographs from Mike Perry's Môr Plastig (Plastic Sea) series and paintings by Flemish Painter Bruno Van Dijck. Both artists have chosen works that reference the beach, Cwm Gwylog (Welsh for Lookout Bay), which is a few minutes walk from Mike Perry's studio in north Pembrokeshire, West Wales. Perry has chosen photographs of plastic objects washed up at Cwm Gwylog and Bruno Van Dijck has included a series of oil paintings that he made at the beach over the summer of 2015.

Both artists present contemporary interpretations of John Masefield's famously romantic poem, which laments a sailors cry to return to the sea. In Perry's case, the focus is plastic pollution and what we might be leaving behind for future generations. Van Dijck offers up his oil paintings in a sarcophagus as if they are part of a funeral rite. Both bodies of work reflect ecological concerns for the state of our oceans and a powerful counter to the romantic aspirations of John Masefield's original poem.

Perry's highly detailed digital photographs offer an interesting contrast to Van Dijck's use of traditional painting technique and materials. Whilst Van Dijck's scratchy abstractions of disappearing coastlines are 'painted landscapes', Perry's 'micro landscapes', as he calls them, expose nature's impact on the man-made. Both sets of work leave us with a feeling that nature will sculpt our world and do it's thing whatever we throw at it, whether we humans are here or not.

Mike Perry, Glove 2
Cwm Gwylog, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2013
Digital Print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag

Mike Perry, Shoe 2
Cwm Gwylog, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2013
Digital Print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag

 

The exhibition catalogue includes an introduction by Belgium writer Jeroen Laureyns and a poem written for the project by Philip Gross titled Three Fevers and A Fret. Extract below:

Philip Gross reading Three Fevers and a Fret (2016)
Cwm Gwylog, Pembrokeshire, Wales, August 2016

Three Fevers and a Fret (verse 4)

I am sick, sea says. You must listen. Sick
of many things, including your (pathetic)
fallacies. That song you thought you heard
wasn't mine... At last night's bins in the deserted
market, listen; the snatch-mobs of dawn
are at those innards spilled as if your own,
the day's trick. And the tall ships stitching
trade routes round the earth, to bag, to cash
and carry...
                        Listen closer. Catch the glitter-
swish of shoals switching grey-silver-grey to
off. The shiver-to-stillness of the coral
bleaching. The slow spreading of the spill
to pools of silence. The hundred-mile spool
of whale song snapped. I have no words for you.

                              Philip Gross (2016)



Pete Judge's trumpet solo, Sea Fever – Revisited (2016), recorded on location at Cwm Gwylog, is a melancholic re-interpretation of John Ireland's (1913) original Sea Fever composition.

Pete Judge playing Sea Fever (based on original music by John Ireland 1913)
Cwm Gwylog, Pembrokeshire, Wales, August 2016


Van Dijck, Cwm Gwylog - 2016, Acryl, charcoal and chalk on conservation board 328 x 328 mm


         - The Colour Of The Earth: Art and the Material Landscape. National Museum Wales     more

National Museum Wales

Oriel y Parc, St Davids, Wales

24th September 2016 - 5th March 2017



The Colour of the Earth: Art and the Material Landscape

Reading the Rocks: The Remarkable Maps of William Smith


Reading the Rocks: the Remarkable Maps of William Smith explores the life and work of William Smith (1769 - 1839), who is credited with creating the first nationwide geological map. Smith's beautifully hand-coloured maps are icons in the world of geology. Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum of Wales holds more original versions of these spectacular maps than any other public institution in the world. Two different editions will be displayed, along with unique documents and smaller maps, all depicting the story of Smith's life and work.

This exhibition was originally shown at National Museum Cardiff in 2015, as part of the William Smith Bicentennial celebrations. The Learning activities are funded with thanks to SRK Consulting.

To coincide with Reading the Rocks, Oriel y Parc will also be showing The Colour of the Earth: Art and the Material Landscape. In 2015, as part of a residency at the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol, artist Rodney Harris re-created William Smith's map of 1815 using geological pigments made from corresponding ground-up rock samples from each area of the UK. The resulting full-scale map is a unique and surprising overview of the true colours of the British landscape.

Harris's map will be on display at Oriel y Parc, alongside work by four artists for whom the material or geological nature of the Pembrokeshire coast has been a starting point for their practice - Adam Buick, Brendan Stuart Burns, Mike Perry and Graham Sutherland.



Abereiddi 7, Pembrokeshire Wales, 2004
c type print 203 x 178cm

Mike Perry's Abereiddi series explores the relationship between landscape photography and abstract painting. Here, Abereiddi is shown as an arrangement of form and colour, with Perry's interest being the material nature of the location rather than the location itself. Purposely avoiding dramatic lighting, Perry shoots in overcast daytime conditions which allow him to capture the soft, monochromatic tones of rock strata and sea.

Extracts from Abereiddi, review by Craig Burnett

NextLevel Magazine, No 7, Edition 01, Vol 4, 2005


Mike Perry looks down upon the Abereiddi shoreline with humility and awe. The beauty he finds there is so unaware of its audience, so self-contained, that it almost punishes the vanity of the pleasure we find in it. Yet, where exactly, is the artist? The position of the camera is difficult to identify or measure; the photographs seem to be taken as if the camera were hovering, impossibly, above the rocks. We don't experience the landscape as if from the perspective of an artist seeking a picturesque composition, but rather as if from the casual glance of a seagull, stone or tuft of grass. This denial of a dramatic or picturesque composition grants the landscape a fierce independence.



Abereiddi 2, Pembrokeshire Wales, 2004
c type print 203 x 178cm

Perry's ongoing interest in abstract art and its relation to Modernist photography remains a powerful stimulus at Abereiddi. The flattened space and vertiginous perspective allow abstraction to overtake depiction. The combination of dark, intractable blocks of stone and scribbles of white foam suggests the alternating spaces of order and turmoil in a Jonathan Lasker abstract.

The Stoics thought nature, God and reason were one and that peace of mind was achievable only by obeying their laws. Baudelaire, on the other hand, saw nature as a filthy inevitability, the origin of all vulgarity and vice. "Good", he said, "is always the product of some art". Perry's photographs set out to find a whiff of both goodness and art. The goodness is in the pursuit of objectivity, which is also an implied ethics of looking at the natural world; the art is in the pleasure he finds, and captures for us, in it's surfaces. A photograph will always fall short of capturing this ideal, but for Perry, photography is a method to carry on and a ritual to placate a few angry gods. And all gods, William Blake reminds us, reside in the human breast. Mike Perry's photographs reveal that nature's dreadfulness, and its indifference, is ours, too. It's beauty is its own.

 

         - Llanw Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, Wales, with Alex Duncan, supported by Welsh Arts Council     more

LLANW

Plas Glyn-y-Weddw

Mike Perry, Alexander Duncan
18th July - 2nd October 2016


Open 9am-5pm. Mondays to Saturdays.
Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, Llanbedrog, Pwllheli, LL53 7TT, Wales

Mike Perry, Pecked Foam, Môr Plastig, Porth Ceiriad, Llŷn Peninsula, Wales 2016
Digital Print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag, 68cm x 85cm


At first glance, this large white object, entitled Pecked Foam, could be a slab of metamorphic rock. The texture and markings resembling the patina of white alabaster marble. But closer inspection reveals a featherlight battered piece of polyurethane, more commonly know as foam, perhaps a degraded piece of protective packaging that has floated in on the tide at Porth Ceiriad on the Llŷn Peninsula, North Wales.

But artist Mike Perry is not just interested in this object's strange materiality or it's monochromatic tones. He is also interested in it's meaning beyond it's sculptural presence, that is the environmental story it may be telling us. Further examination of the lesions and cracks in the foam indicate that the markings have been made by an animal, probably a seagull scratching around for food. For Perry, these markings are a metaphor for the plight of our seabird population, which according to recent studies has declined by over 70% in British waters since the 1960s as a result of overfishing and more recently climate change. Perry likens these 'inscriptions' to the claw marks made in caves by trapped animals and the early writings of our human ancestors. He sees them as a warning to this and future generations of what humans have done to the natural world.

Perry's highly detailed photographs of plastic pollution are 'micro-landscapes'. Landscapes that document both man's impact on nature and nature's impact on the man-made. When geologists look back at this epoch in a thousand years from now they will probably refer to it as the 'Age of Plastic'.

Mike Perry, Flip Flops and Shoes Grid x 16, Môr Plastig, 2016

         - Found, Foundling Museum, London. Inc. Tacita Dean, Jeremy Deller, Anthony Gormley...     more

FOUND

Exhibition
Foundling Museum
27th May - 4th September 2016


Curated by Cornelia Parker

Artists include:

Ron Arad, Fionna Banner, Phyllida Barlow, Jarvis Cocker, Keith Coventry, Michael Craig-Martin, Martin Creed, Richard Deacon, Tacita Dean, Jeremy Deller, Edmund de Waal, Brian Eno, Ryan Gardner, Antony Gormley, Mona Hatoum, Thomas Heatherwick, Michael Landy, Christian Marclay, Jeff McMillan, David Nash, Mike Nelson, Humphrey Ocean, Mike Perry, Laure Prouvost, Fiona Rae, David Shrigley, Bob and Roberta Smith, Wolfgang Tillmans, Gavin Turk, Mark Wallinger, Marina Warner, Gillian Wearing, Richard Wentworth, Rachel Whiteread, Bill Woodrow, Rose Wylie, Silvia Ziranec and more.

Mike Perry – Môr Plastig

Môr Plastig, Welsh for 'Plastic Sea', captures the impact of both plastic objects upon the living world, and the erosive power of nature.

For Found, Perry has chosen three grid-like objects, probably the remains of crates or packaging, found along the west coast of Wales where he lives and works. While he is concerned with the environmental impacts of all this sea plastic, he's also interested in the new forms emerging from nature's erosion of this ubiquitous material. In this case, the grid, once thought of as 'anti organic' and solely a product of urban life, is now emerging washed up in the 'natural' environment.

Shooting each piece forensically, straight on to camera and at their actual size, Perry uses flat neutral light to give a sense of objectivity to the viewing process. The ambiguity between the calm aesthetic and underlying narrative creates a tension which Perry uses to make us think about the materiality of these objects and what we are leaving behind for future generations. They are in a sense both aesthetic abstractions and at the same time documents of toxic pollution.

Perry describes these highly detailed photographs as 'micro landscapes'. But Landscapes that document both man's impact on nature and nature's impact on the man made. When Geologists look back at this epoch in a thousand years from now they will probably refer to it as the 'Age of Plastic'.

      Works exhibited:

        Pink Grid, Môr Plastig, Freshwater West Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2016
        Digital print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Paper 560 mm x 510 mm


        Warped Grid, Môr Plastig, Traeth Llyfn Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2016
        Digital print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Paper 530 mm x 430 mm


        White Grid, Môr Plastig, Freshwater West Beach, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2016
        Digital print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Paper 560 mm x 510 mm


For more information visit Found at The Foundling Museum

2015 - Vita Vitale, exhibition at 56th Venice Biennale 2015, created by International Dialogue for Environmental Action     more

VITA VITALE
56th Venice Biennale 2015

Presented by IDEA (International Dialogue For Enviromental Action)

Curated by Artwise (Susie Allen, Laura Culpan and Dea Vanagan)

Commissioned by Heydar Aliyev Foundation

Azerbaijan 2nd Pavillion
Ca' Garzoni
Calle Del Tragheto o Garzoni
San Marco 3416 30124

Official Opening 6th May 2015
Open to public 9th May - 22nd November 2015

Artists

Edward Burtynsky, Mircea Cantor, Loris Cecchini, Gordon Cheung, Khalil Christee, Tony Cragg, Laura Ford, Noemie Gougal, Siobhan Hapaska, Paul Huxley, IDEA laboratory and Leyla Aliyeva, Chris Jordan with Rebecca Clark and Helen S.Eitel, Tania Kovats, Aida Mahmudova, Sayyora Muin, Jacco Olivier, Julian Opie, Julian Perry, Mike Perry, Bas Princen, Stephanie Quayle, Ugo Rondinone, Graham Stevens, Diana Thater, Bill Woodrow, Erwin Wurm, Andy Warhol and Rose Wylie.

Mike Perry, Flip Flops and Shoes grid x 14, Môr Plastig, 2015

Mike Perry – Môr Plastig

Vita Vitale reflects on the delicate balance of our planet's ecosystem and man's destructive footprint within it. Môr Plastig, Welsh for 'Plastic Sea', captures the impact of both plastic objects upon the living world, and the erosive power of nature. Photographing flip flops and shoes washed up on the coasts of West Wales, Cuba, Tanzania and Sri Lanka, Perry documents plastic pollution in unexpectedly poetic images that detail the objects degradation and transformation by sun, sea and sand. He presents each shoe simply, accentuating and inviting us to contemplate the aesthetic qualities of its erosion, the environmental danger it represents, and the moral of consumerism it embodies.

Mike Perry, Keep Box Fragment, Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2015

IDEA Laboratory

Curated by experimental architect Professor Rachel Armstrong, and drawing inspiration from Venice's ecological concerns, the IDEA laboratory convenes scientists, artists and designers to spark dialogue about synthesising our technological capabilities and our living realm.

Artist Mike Perry installed a cabinet of plastiglomerates – stones comprising intermingled melted plastic, sand, shells and other beach sediment – which collected along the Welsh coast, including the realisation that we are not only littering the world's surfaces with plastic, but also geologically inscribing into the Earth's history our role in its proliferation. He lays bare the impact on the living world of contemporary society's dependence on disposable plastic.

Mike Perry, Plastigomerate samples, Idea Laboratory, Vita Vitale 2015

"Mike Perry provokes a different relationship with nature. He collects and documents the plastics washed up on our beaches in forensic detail, which are crafted so exquisitely that they appear seamlessly integrated with our marine ecosystems. Perry's work invites us to consider the new materiality of our living realm and its technological capacities."

Alison Bracker

2014 - The Black & White Room curated by Cornelia Parker at The Royal Academy of Arts, London     more

         - 'Here Today...', Old Sorting Office, London, including Gavin Turk, Tracey Emin, Peter Blake...     more

Here Today...
The Old Sorting Office, New Oxford Street, London
25 November - 17 December 2014
International Contemporary Art Exhibition curated by Artwise, 50th Anniversary of ICUN

         - Didn't We Have A Lovely Time, The Photographers' Gallery, London     more

DIDN'T WE HAVE A LOVELY TIME
The Photographers' Gallery, London
11 July - 31 August 2014
Simon Roberts, Mike Perry, Luke Stephenson, John Hinde, Nicolas Hughes

Flip Flops and Shoes Grid x 14, Môr Plastig, Wales 2014

For his show at The Photographers' Gallery, Perry has chosen 10 washed up Flip Flops and Shoes from his series Môr Plastig. Môr Plastig, welsh for Plastic Sea, is study of plastic detritus washed up on the coast of West Wales and beyond.

At a glance, the shape and size could be familiar, the texture and colour offer a displaced sense of beauty. There is a personal, environmental and aesthetic quality to these objects, which raises more questions than answers. The human stories and the impending environmental impacts soon become more prominent in our thoughts.

On closer inspection, there appears to be something else to absorb, in these highly detailed and forensically photographed objects. The degrading effect of the sea has created extraordinary forms and surfaces. Are we allowed to enjoy nature's continuous eroding process and the painterly effects caused by the interaction of sun, sea and sand? The repetitive presentation also provides a rhythm of colour and form and allows relationships to develop between the individual specimens.

To achieve these images Perry has used a very high-resolution digital camera. He shoots in neutral daylight avoiding strong shadows and dramatic lighting. His intention is to show the objects as they are, allowing the viewer to bring their own interpretations and thoughts to the viewing experience. This is clearly very different to much environmental photography, which uses strong emotionally charged images to document the effects of pollution and climate change. Clearly, this approach leads to a paradox in that the shoes have become both aesthetically appealing objects and yet dangerous pollutants at the same time. Perry uses this ambiguity to make us think about what's going on.

Whilst the sheer number of shoes is a reminder of the ubiquity of plastic on our beaches, it is also a barometer of the infinite choice now offered by our global consumerist world. Sandals come in every size, shape and colour. No two shoes are the same and they now frequent every beach on the planet from West Wales to Eastern China. These products don't need global logistic companies to transport them from market to market, the worlds ocean currents do it for them. Perry has found Russian sandals on his Pembrokeshire beach and British Flip Flops on the beaches of East Africa.

For as long as we can remember, artists have been interested in collecting and sifting through the trash society leaves behind. Perry is motivated by giving these remains a status and attention they wouldn't normally assume. He wants people to share 'a strange knowledge' and spend a little time looking at things that they would normally walk past and ignore as rubbish. This collection of extruded polymers offers something more than an array of colour, form and extraordinary surface details or a worrying warning of looming environmental disaster. It is perhaps, most of all, a powerful reminder of the power of nature. Not as a creator of sublime epic landscapes or breathtaking natural disasters, but as a moulder and sculptor of all things, however large or small, living or synthetic. Looking at this body of work one must surely conclude that nature is the ultimate designer.

(Taken from ICIA Exhibition Catalogue, Flip Flops and Shoes 2013 by Lindsay Hughes).

2013 - Môr Plastig, Contemporary Arts Exhibition, National Eisteddfod of Wales     more

2012 - New Ground: Landscape Art in Wales since 1970, National Museum Of Wales     more

         - Unseen, Westergafabriek, Amsterdam, The Photographers' Gallery, London     more

         - Oriel Davies Open, Môr Plastig, Oriel Davies Gallery, Powys, Wales     more

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Oriel Davies Open 2012
Various artists
28 April 2012 - 27 June 2012

This exhibition presents the work of 38 artists, selected from over 600 submissions to the Oriel Davies Open 2012 competition. The response to the competition was overwhelming, both nationally and internationally, with entries coming from all corners - Wales to Israel, Cornwall to Switzerland. The works selected demonstrate the breadth and diversity of artistic practice from across the world.

All the artists exhibiting are working innovatively, using materials and visual techniques to push boundaries - such as challenging political or social systems, capturing the sublime, revealing the uncanny or even disrupting the very architecture of the gallery. Thematically the works can be understood as a series of opposites - natural versus artificial, animal versus human, or transitory versus permanent, yet each work stands alone, with it's own unique way of communicating.

Selected artists Barbara and Zafer Baran, Ruth Boothroyd, Bettina Buck, Helen Cammock, Julie Cassels, James Clarkson, Julian Claxton, Michael Cousin, Emma Critchley, Joe Doldon, Rosaline Dolton, Sean Edwards, David Gepp, Heloise Godfrey, Andy Harper, Shan Hur, Real Institute, Geoff Diego Litherland, Jessica Lloyd-Jones, Tom Lovelace, William Mackrell, Melanie Manchot, Scott Mason, Paul Murphy Nina Ogden, Sarah Pager, Mike Perry, Abigail Reynolds, Peter Richards, Damien Roach, Angela Smith, Anna Solum, Fern Thomas, Tommy Ting, Matthew Verdon, Mary Vettise, Richard T Walker, Ben Woodeson.

Selectors: Ben Borthwick, Chief Executive and Artistic Director, Artes Mundi; Ann Jones Curator, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre; Amanda Farr, Director, Oriel Davies Gallery; Ruth Gooding, Curator, Oriel Davies Gallery.

Mike Perry's Bottles grid x15 is from his series called Môr Plastig 2012 (welsh for Plastic Sea) and is a forensic study of plastic bottles washed up on a beach in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.

2011 - The Earth Only Endures, The Photographers' Gallery at Stone Theatre, London     more

Cross, Rannoch Moor, Scotland 2009

Cross
Rannoch Moor, Scotland 2009

The Earth Only Endures
19th May - 22nd September 2011
The Photographers' Gallery at Stone Theatre, Waterloo, London
Jem Southam, Stephen Vaughan, Mike Perry

The Earth Only Endures is a collaboration between Stone Theatre and The Photographers' Gallery, London. It features the work of three British photographers, Mike Perry, Jem Southam and Stephen Vaughan and explores the territory of change, transition and reclamation of the landscape. In particular, the impact of human and natural forces in the transformation of the earth's surface.

Taken from the title of Jules Pretty's book, The Earth Only Endures reflects a revitalised debate on our stewardship of nature and how we sustain our natural habitats in a time of encroaching climate change, resource depletion and natural disaster. It also addresses the increasing difficulty associated with interpretation and depiction of nature as our landscapes are no longer what they appear but the subject of the cultural knowledge and personal perspectives we project on to them. At the beginning of the 21st century, the idea of 'pristine nature' is at best a fading memory and more often a delusion. Indeed, we are moving into an era where every inch of our landscape is known, controlled and understood. Or at least if it isn't, it will be soon.

These large scale works, shot on 10x8" format, reveal extraordinary detail resulting in an intense and almost super real connection with the surface of the print and the material quality of the landscape itself. On one level these are resolutely objective documents of the landscape void of human interaction or emotional attachment but on closer inspection the works reveal their own stories and space for interpretation.

In some works the scale and wide perspectives create a sense of the epic, such as in Mike Perry's Waterfall, Cava Marmi 1, where the search for pure white marble has turned a mountainside into a giant scree of discarded boulders. In others such as Jem Southam's, China Clay Pits 1, the feeling is more mysterious and enigmatic as he records the impact of the 'Cornish Alps' on the surrounding community in South West Britain. Stephen Vaughan's scarred lunar like surfaces , once used for training by Apollo astronauts, take us to another world altogether... the world of 'geology time zero'. But the underlying theme is a sense that our landscapes are no longer sublime eternal vistas as we once portrayed them. Our gaze is increasingly conscious of industrial exploitation, unsustainable farming practices, and altered topology.

2009 - HHA competition and competition, Christies, London. Winner Best Picture     more

Blue Border 1, Parham House, Sussex 2009

Blue Border 1
Parham House, Sussex 2009

Christies / HHA photographic competition
November 2009
Work exhibited Christies, King Street, London
Winner of Best Picture: Mike Perry, Blue Border 1, 2009

At the beginning of the Summer, a group of photographic artists were invited to take part in a competition to celebrate 25 years of the Garden Of The Year Award. The photographs were judged by a panel of experts for their originality and beauty, and measured by their success at capturing the essence of each garden in its historic setting. An inaugural exhibition at Christie's of the photographs, including the winning entries will continue until Wednesday, 18 November 2009, and reopen at Christie's King Street again in January. The exhibition will then be transported to Blenheim Palace, the most recent winners of the award itself, where it will remain for the first month of their visiting season.

Ricky Roundell, Vice Chairman, Christie's said, "There is an exceptional degree of innovation and an extraordinary variety of approach illustrated in the photographs submitted for the 25th anniversary Garden of the Year Award photographic competition and exhibition sponsored by Christie's and the Historic Houses Association. The photographers have produced a wonderful array of concepts from wide views to close-ups, beautifully capturing the diversity displayed in these famous English gardens. The exhibition is a great testament to the dedication and enthusiasm of the gardeners and owners of each Garden of the Year Award winner from the last twenty-five years. The public exhibition of photographs at Christie's King Street is the perfect celebration of twenty-five years of the award, of the gardens, and the photographers who have captured their spirit and beauty so well."

Philippe Garner, International Head of Photographs and 20th Century Decorative Art & Design, Christie's said, "We decided to invite a number of photographers who weren't necessarily garden photographers, but whom we felt we could trust to tackle the subject with confidence and express a very personal perspective. We wanted variety: photographers who work on an ambitious or heroic scale and also those whose approach would be more intimate; we wanted colour but also black and white. The aim was to achieve a group of works that would surprise and stimulate, and I have found the outcome immensely satisfying. Christie's business is in selling works of art that already exist, but there is something special and exciting about bringing new works into being."

         - British Landscape Photography, curated by The Photographers' Gallery, London     more

Abereiddi 2, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2004

Abereiddi 2
Pembrokeshire, Wales 2004

British Landscape Photography
February 2009
Exhibition at Liberty, London
Group show curated by The Photoghraphers' Gallery

British Landscape Photography is a group exhibition at Liberty, London. Work selected by Brett Rogers, Director of The Photographers' Gallery and Michelle Alger of Liberty.

2008 - Ecology and Art, The Royal Society for the Arts, London     more

Burnt Gorse, Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2005

Burnt Gorse
Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2005

Royal Society of the Arts
October 2008
Burnt Gorse 1, exhibited RSA, London
Ecology and Art Programme

While Mike Perry's large-format landscape photographs are on a scale to rival romantic painting of the 19th century, they hardly echo the rapture artists have traditionally conjured from mountains and trees. Nor are his preferred sites those now familiar from the pages of Sunday supplements. In place of the iconic shots of diminished glaciers or devastated rain forest, he gives us the overlooked scrublands of Britain and Ireland's rural fringes. Strewn with weeds or rotting timber, they're not exactly settings likely to move someone to spontaneously pull over in their car, jump out and take a picture. Frequently though, this is precisely Perry's method. Rather than places of specific environmental interest, let alone beauty spots, his locations are often unplanned, found when driving around on the hunt with his camera.

The four works from his series Wet Deserts are a case in point. Unlike the tourist brochure images, shot from on high, of dramatic mountain vistas swooping down on a stretch of blue water, Loch Cluanie, Western Highlands, Scotland, November 2008, is taken from a low-angle, up close. Streaks of black, boggy earth, green and gold weeds and only the occasional smear of slate great puddles move up the surface of the image, towards a dull off-white strip of sky.

Certainly, this dark morass is a long way from some tumultuous evocation of the sublime in the face of ineffable nature. So many decades have passed since any corner of the Earth could be thought of as some unfathomable mystery; now it's our own ingenuity, writ large from space stations to sports tracks, which leaves us awe-struck. In this sense, if it impresses at all, nature is but one more conquest in our ceaseless development, often forced to bear the brunt of the aftershocks of industry.

Yet, realised on a large scale, with an 10x8" camera, in the more sensitive tones of winter's low light, something happens to this landscape that we might otherwise write off as forgettable and mundane. Here the detail of muddy pebbles, spear grass or squelching soil is so intricate that surface textures take over. This mix of rough, repetitious marks and smudges with smooth, washed-out expanses, plus the daubs or fields of colour, brings Perry's work closer to abstract painting than documentary photography.

Burnt Gorse, Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2005 a similar transformation takes place. The scene is a charred hillside in a national park, where a wilderness of gorse has been torched to allow grass to grow the following year. The photograph divides this landscape between a monochrome band of black earth and white sky. Up close the burnt gorse is a mess of inky, snaking calligraphic lines, which fade into the soft, With hazy spray of cloud. The shifting shades of Ad Reinhart's black paintings, Cy Twombly's graffiti scribbles and Agnes Martin's muted palette all comes to mind.

This fresh aesthetic potential is what Perry's photography tease out of the neglected countryside. Green Gorse, with its distorted scale turning the tangled growth on a Welsh mountain into an emerald jungle that could rival Alex Hutte's dramatic aerial photography of Germany's black forest, is a perfect example. However, while these images pursue an alternative beauty they are not without import when it comes to environmental concerns.

If, on the one hand, Perry's interested in the formal qualities of landscape, at the same time his locations almost always tell another story, be it of the effects of intensive farming or climate change. With its sodden expanse littered with skeletal timber, Cross, Rannoch Moor, Scotland, November 2008 could be an abandoned battlefield: it's what's been left by private land owners who've harvested fast growing pines, and then let the soil become acidic and infertile. Similarly the gorse coating the Welsh hills is the result of a lack of biodiversity brought about by continuous sheep farming.

This environmental narrative is perhaps most explicit in the series White Gold, Perry's photographs of marble quarries in Germany's South Tyrol. Here, instead of sidelined Celtic backwaters, he gives us the drama of a heavy, luxury industry where the unusually pure white stone, destined to be fashioned into bathroom tiles for the world's super rich, has been mined rapaciously. In White Marble Scree, Cava di Marmo, Weisswasserbruch, Jennwand, Sudtirol Oct 2010 the veins of a waterfall trickling down the side of a mountain is parodied by discarded marble rocks, spewing in a great triangle across the water's path. With White Marble Face, Cava di Marmo, Wandbruch, Weisswand, Sudtirol Oct 2010, the quarry itself becomes a haphazard grid of angry black lines cut into the precious white commodity.

More generally though, what Perry photographs aren't necessarily spots he's singled out for their relevance to global affairs. He doesn't have to. They bring home the sense that environmental issues are now so all-encompassing you don't need to journey to the Arctic to discover man's impact on the eco system. The effects are everywhere. In spite of their melancholy ambience though, it would be hard to see these photographs as fatalistic. The different kinds of beauty Perry evokes also invite us to be open to the unknown possibilities of change.

         - Oasis, Gana Art, Seoul, Korea     more

Beach 5, Birling Gap, Sussex 2001

Beach 5
Birling Gap, Sussex 2001

OASIS
2nd - 28th October 2008
Group show at Gana Art, Busan, S Korea
Elger Esser, Mike Perry, Syoin Kajii, Kim Dong-Chul, Do Sung Wook

 

2007 - Transition Gallery, London

2005 - Landscape, 5th International Photo Festival, Seoul, Korea

         - Photo London, Royal Academy. Abereiddi series, showcased by The Photographers' Gallery

2004 - Paris Photo, Carousel De Louvre, The Photographers' Gallery

         - Group show at Transition Gallery, London as part of E9 project   more

'E9, An Anatomy of an Area'
Exhibition Catalogue, October 2004



'E9, An Anatomy of an Area', Exhibition Catalogue
For Sale, Marshgate Trading Estate, Hackney, 2004



'E9, An Anatomy of an Area', Exhibition Catalogue
Lee Navigation, Hackney, East London, 2004

         - Photo London. Royal Academy. Exhibited by The Photographers Gallery

2003 - Robert Sandleson Gallery, London, curated by Tom Morton of Frieze Magazine

Awards / Commissions

2017 - Land/Sea, Touring Solo Exhibition curated by Ffotogallery, sponsored by Arts Council Wales

2015 - Creative Wales Award, awarded by Arts Council Wales     more

CREATIVE WALES AWARD 2015

Rewilding: place and practice



This year Arts Council of Wales is delighted to award photographic artist Mike Perry a Creative Wales Award, receiving £18,000.

Perry has chosen 'Rewilding' as the subject of his Creative Wales Award. Following George Monbiot's call for our generation to reconnect with nature, Perry wants to artistically explore contemporary ideas of re-generation in the context of climate change, loss of species and the increasing influence of agribusiness.

He is interested in how we create a dialogue with these ideas through the visual mediums of photography and film. Perry believes there is a renaissance emerging in our thinking about what is possible in nature and what is good for the human spirit, biodiversity and the planet. And this is the energy he says he wants to feed off.

After 15 years of working with 8x10 film format, Perry is planning to experiment with the new generation of portable digital cameras that offer a greater mobility and a less formalistic approach. He also hopes to use the resource to experiment with moving film.

"This is the Arts Council of Wales' opportunity to recognise some of the incredible talent Wales has, and to encourage its development at significant junctures in the artists' career. Awardees take the brave decision to explore new ways of making their art, and what they learn can have a fundamental impact on their future work. A creative Wales depends on the imagination and inspiration of its artists, and whether at home or abroad the arts project the vibrancy of Welsh creativity on the world stage."

David Alston, Arts director, Arts Council Wales

         - Coastal Currents Artist in Residence at Oriel Y Parc/National Museum of Wales     more

2014 - Arts Council Wales, Research Residency, Elan Valley Project

2009 - Christies HHA Commission, Winner Best Picture     more

2007 - BBC 4 Arts Television. Featured Artist in documentary, Britain In Pictures

2002 - Commissioned by NextLevel Magazine for Breaking Oil, text by Bianca Jagger

         - Astral America Project Commissioned by Prada/Huntergather with Tom Hunter     more

Publications

2015 - CCQ Magazine, Issue 7, p62-p65 – Something Rich and Strange, interview with Emma Geliot on Venice Biennale     more

CCQ Magazine, p62-p65, September 2015
Something Rich and Strange, interview with editor Emma Geliot on Venice Biennale installation

         - Irenebrination, Human Debris and Flip-Flops Archives: Mike Perry's 'Môr Plastig' at Venice Biennale

2013 - ICIA Exhibition Catalogue - Môr Plastig: introduction by Lindsay Hughes     more

Flip Flop 13, 2012

Flip Flop 13
2012





Flip Flop 3, 2012

Flip Flop 3
2012





Flip Flop 11, 2012

Flip Flop 11
2012





Flip Flop 12, 2012

Flip Flop 12
2012

Môr Plastig: Flip Flops and Shoes
Essay by: Lindsay Hughes
ICIA Exhibition Catalogue, 2013

For Mike Perry's exhibition Môr Plastig - Flip Flops and Shoes at ICIA, he has extended his collection and recordings of plastic detritus to include footwear, exclusively flip flops and shoes. The exhibition consists of a continuous line of 24 life-sized, highly detailed, colour photographs of shoes circling three walls of the gallery space.

At a glance, the shape and size could be familiar, the texture and colour offer a displaced sense of beauty. There is a personal, environmental and aesthetic quality to these objects, which raises more questions than answers. The human stories and the impending environmental impacts soon become more prominent in our thoughts.

On closer inspection, there appears to be something else to absorb, in these highly detailed and forensically photographed objects. The degrading effect of the sea has created extraordinary forms and surfaces. Are we allowed to enjoy nature's continuous eroding process and the painterly effects caused by the interaction of sun, sea and sand? The repetitive presentation also provides a rhythm of colour and form and allows relationships to develop between the individual specimens. Compare the delicate almost hand painted veins and striations of Flip Flop 13 with the pitted orange fossil like remains of Flip Flop 3 or the bright 'Kleinest' purple of Flip Flop 11 with the leather-like map surface of Flip Flop 12.

To achieve these images Perry has used a very high-resolution digital camera. He shoots in neutral daylight avoiding strong shadows and dramatic lighting. His intention is to show the objects as they are, thus achieving an objectivity to the process, allowing the viewer to bring their own interpretations and thoughts to the viewing experience. This is clearly very different to much environmental photography, which uses strong emotionally charged images to document the effects of climate degradation. Clearly, this approach leads to a paradox in that the shoes have become both aesthetically appealing objects and yet dangerous pollutants at the same time.

Whilst the sheer number of shoes is a reminder of the ubiquity of plastic on our beaches, it is also a barometer of the infinite choice now offered by our global consumerist world. Sandals come in every size, shape and colour. No two shoes are the same and they now frequent every beach on the planet from West Wales to Eastern China. These products don't need global logistic companies to transport them from market to market, the worlds ocean currents do it for them. Perry has found Russian sandals on his Pembrokeshire beach and British Flip Flops on the beaches of East Africa.

For as long as we can remember, artists have been interested in collecting and sifting through the trash society leaves behind. Perry is motivated by giving these remains a status and attention they wouldn't normally assume. He wants people to share 'a strange knowledge' and spend a little time looking at things that they would normally walk past and ignore as rubbish. This collection of extruded polymers offers something more than an array of colour, form and extraordinary surface details or a worrying warning of looming environmental disaster. It is perhaps, most of all, a powerful reminder of the power of nature. Not as a creator of sublime epic landscapes or breathtaking natural disasters, but as a moulder and sculptor of all things, however large or small, living or synthetic. Looking at this body of work one must surely conclude that nature is the ultimate designer.

Lindsay Hughes, Creative producer, Visual Arts, Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts (ICIA), University of Bath.

         - Skye Sherwin Review - Môr Plastig     more

Blue Container, Cwm Gwyllog, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2012

Blue Container
Cwm Gwyllog, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2012





Blue Square, Cwm Gwyllog, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2012

Glove 2 Front
Cwm Gwyllog, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2012





Blue Square, Cwm Gwyllog, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2012

Black Bin Liner
Cwm Gwyllog, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2012





Blue Square, Cwm Gwyllog, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2012

Yellow Plastic Sheeting
Cwm Gwyllog, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2012





Blue Square, Cwm Gwyllog, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2012

Blue Square
Cwm Gwyllog, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2012

Môr Plastig
Review by: Skye Sherwin, 2012

The object, a black glossy misshapen lump the size of a child's fist, looks, for all the world, like a piece of coal. Yet, it's been recorded by the artist Mike Perry, as if it were a rare specimen or important evidence: carefully positioned against a white ground, and photographed in the soft light of a cloudy day on a 1:1 scale so that its every hairline crack might be examined. Gaze long enough and you realise there's something not quite right about this little rock, like the dull flecks of mustard yellow within its dark sheen.

No natural phenomenon as we would normally understand it, the 'coal' is in fact a plastic something, mutated from whatever its original shape was by the abrasive force of the sea. This is but one of thousands of samples that Perry has found combing the beach in the little Welsh bay, Cwm Gwyllog, and selected for his alternative natural history series, Môr Plastig (sea of plastic). Where European explorers once documented the strange flora and fauna of tropical lands in meticulously realised drawings and watercolours, Perry finds wonders closer to home. In place of 'olifants' and orchids, he gives us forgotten detritus, washed up in a little-known corner of Britain. His gem-like shards in scarlet, hot orange or turquoise, a bottle encrusted with barnacles or a half-melted scrap of blue, corrugated plastic, apparently metamorphosing into a shell, are no less marvellous however.

Perry's highly detailed images invite us to see these cast-offs with fresh eyes. Surfaces intrigue and deceive: is this mottled peachy morass a hunk of solid marble, eviscerated skin or the barely-there remnant of a plastic sheet? What might once have been a bottle of bleach, becomes something close to abstract art, with its scratched body conjuring the cracked paint of an old modernist canvas. The vestiges of a delicately deteriorating black bin-bag, become a beguiling Rorschach blot. A square neatly divided into sections of blue and white and embossed with the green grime of the sea has the formal precision of geometric abstraction and painting's organic human quality. Look at it another way and it's a map of the world, those grungy markings, archipelagos in a sea of lapis lazuli blue.

What journeys these objects have been on, is a question that looms large. "I often wonder how long it took for a bottle to find its way from Russia to Wales," Perry has said. Unsurprisingly perhaps, many of his images document plastic bottles. Now bent and misshapen, with their clear green or brown bowls turned opaque by salt and sand, they multiply in grids of photos. Astonishingly many still retain identifying tags: barcodes or even logos transferred from long lost labels. These humble items hold an epic story, that of globalised consumer culture and its lesser-known afterlife: what happens to all the disposable goods capitalism runs on.

Plastic seems the archetypal material of our times. Unlike wood or stone, it has no set form. It might become a chair, a dustpan, a lighter, a shoe or any other object we desire. Just create the mold and mass-produce. Frayed, scored and contorted by the sea, Perry's finds have to some extent escaped their factory line, standardised existence. Considering a barnacle-encrusted fragment that might as well be a shell, it's tempting to think of our rubbish as simply being absorbed by nature's all conquering ebb and flow. It's well to remember though that the effects of plastic joining the marine eco-system are far-reaching. To name a few of the consequences, plastics exposed to seawater concentrate toxic compounds like DDT, with unknown effects on zooplankton, the basis of the marine food pyramid, which are now chowing down on micro-particles of polymer, while seabirds regularly starve to death after plastic they've eaten blocks up their digestive systems.

Perry's photography however is not concerned with the campaigning rhetoric of straight environmental documentary. Rather it poetically alludes to what we might be leaving for future generations. A sense of looking back across the ages pervades many of the images, cataloguing decaying debris as if it were relics from a fallen civilisation. Lone rubber gloves for example are shot from both back and front with unflinching detail, as if being subjected to a forensic examination, in one grid of photos. With just their fingers in tact, the palms in tatters and their orange hues darkened to a charred purplish black, they seem less like protective gear than skin itself: a mummified hand perhaps, unearthed in the ocean bed. Elsewhere flecks of seaweed caught in a bottle, suggest prehistoric insects trapped in amber. Ragged, yellowing sheets of plastic resemble ancient parchment: pirate's maps that lead to a strange kind of buried treasure. What people, millennia from now, will make of a flip-flop decorated with a giant flower, should they chance upon it in the sand, is anyone's guess.

While Perry's photography alerts us to changes taking place, his approach remains resolutely open and ambiguous. The intricate detail his photos capture is utterly arresting, the plastic's formal beauty striking. Meanwhile these manmade objects redefined by the ocean, consistently challenge our ideas about what's natural and what artificial. Considering that shiny piece of plastic coal, we find ourselves one moment staring at the contemporary and humdrum, the next contemplating evolution and the origins of the world. This malleable material born of recent technology, has after all been created from oil, which like coal, is a fossil fuel, extracted from deposits in the earth millennia old.

2009 - Exhibition Catalogue - The Earth Only Endures, words by Skye Sherwin     more

Loch Cluanie, Western Highlands, Scotland 2009

Loch Cluanie
Western Highlands, Scotland 2009





Burnt Gorse, Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2005

Burnt Gorse
Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2005





Cross, Rannoch Moor, Scotland 2009

Cross
Rannoch Moor, Scotland 2009





Scree, Weisswasserbruch, Sud Tirol 2010

Scree
Weisswasserbruch, Sud Tirol 2010





Rockface, Wandbruch, Sud Tirol 2010

Rockface
Wandbruch, Jennwand, Sud Tirol 2010

The Earth Only Endures
Essay by: Skye Sherwin
Exhibition Catalogue, 2011

While Mike Perry's large-format landscape photographs are on a scale to rival romantic painting of the 19th century, they hardly echo the rapture artists have traditionally conjured from mountains and trees. Nor are his preferred sites those now familiar from the pages of Sunday supplements. In place of the iconic shots of diminished glaciers or devastated rain forest, he gives us the overlooked scrublands of Britain and Ireland's rural fringes. Strewn with weeds or rotting timber, they're not exactly settings likely to move someone to spontaneously pull over in their car, jump out and take a picture. Frequently though, this is precisely Perry's method. Rather than places of specific environmental interest, let alone beauty spots, his locations are often unplanned, found when driving around on the hunt with his camera.

The four works from his series Wet Deserts are a case in point. Unlike the tourist brochure images, shot from on high, of dramatic mountain vistas swooping down on a stretch of blue water, Loch Cluanie, Western Highlands, Scotland, November 2008, is taken from a low-angle, up close. Streaks of black, boggy earth, green and gold weeds and only the occasional smear of slate great puddles move up the surface of the image, towards a dull off-white strip of sky.

Certainly, this dark morass is a long way from some tumultuous evocation of the sublime in the face of ineffable nature. So many decades have passed since any corner of the Earth could be thought of as some unfathomable mystery; now it's our own ingenuity, writ large from space stations to sports tracks, which leaves us awe-struck. In this sense, if it impresses at all, nature is but one more conquest in our ceaseless development, often forced to bear the brunt of the aftershocks of industry.

Yet, realised on a large scale, with an 10x8" camera, in the more sensitive tones of winter's low light, something happens to this landscape that we might otherwise write off as forgettable and mundane. Here the detail of muddy pebbles, spear grass or squelching soil is so intricate that surface textures take over. This mix of rough, repetitious marks and smudges with smooth, washed-out expanses, plus the daubs or fields of colour, brings Perry's work closer to abstract painting than documentary photography.

Burnt Gorse, Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2005 a similar transformation takes place. The scene is a charred hillside in a national park, where a wilderness of gorse has been torched to allow grass to grow the following year. The photograph divides this landscape between a monochrome band of black earth and white sky. Up close the burnt gorse is a mess of inky, snaking calligraphic lines, which fade into the soft, With hazy spray of cloud. The shifting shades of Ad Reinhart's black paintings, Cy Twombly's graffiti scribbles and Agnes Martin's muted palette all comes to mind.

This fresh aesthetic potential is what Perry's photography tease out of the neglected countryside. Green Gorse, with its distorted scale turning the tangled growth on a Welsh mountain into an emerald jungle that could rival Alex Hutte's dramatic aerial photography of Germany's black forest, is a perfect example. However, while these images pursue an alternative beauty they are not without import when it comes to environmental concerns.

If, on the one hand, Perry's interested in the formal qualities of landscape, at the same time his locations almost always tell another story, be it of the effects of intensive farming or climate change. With its sodden expanse littered with skeletal timber, Cross, Rannoch Moor, Scotland, November 2008 could be an abandoned battlefield: it's what's been left by private land owners who've harvested fast growing pines, and then let the soil become acidic and infertile. Similarly the gorse coating the Welsh hills is the result of a lack of biodiversity brought about by continuous sheep farming.

This environmental narrative is perhaps most explicit in the series White Gold, Perry's photographs of marble quarries in Germany's South Tyrol. Here, instead of sidelined Celtic backwaters, he gives us the drama of a heavy, luxury industry where the unusually pure white stone, destined to be fashioned into bathroom tiles for the world's super rich, has been mined rapaciously. In White Marble Scree, Cava di Marmo, Weisswasserbruch, Jennwand, Sudtirol Oct 2010 the veins of a waterfall trickling down the side of a mountain is parodied by discarded marble rocks, spewing in a great triangle across the water's path. With White Marble Face, Cava di Marmo, Wandbruch, Weisswand, Sudtirol Oct 2010, the quarry itself becomes a haphazard grid of angry black lines cut into the precious white commodity.

More generally though, what Perry photographs aren't necessarily spots he's singled out for their relevance to global affairs. He doesn't have to. They bring home the sense that environmental issues are now so all-encompassing you don't need to journey to the Arctic to discover man's impact on the eco system. The effects are everywhere. In spite of their melancholy ambience though, it would be hard to see these photographs as fatalistic. The different kinds of beauty Perry evokes also invite us to be open to the unknown possibilities of change.

         - NextLevel - Collectors Issue, In Conversation with Charles Dunstone, Edition 19     more

NextLevel Magazine, Collectors Issue, Edition 19, Oct 2009

NextLevel Magazine
Collectors Issue, Edition 19, Oct 2009





Loch Cluanie, Western Highlands, Scotland 2009

Loch Cluanie
Western Highlands, Scotland 2009

Wet Desserts
Article by: Professor Gill Perry
NextLevel Magazine, Collectors Issue, Edition 19, Oct 2009

Loch Cluanie lies shielded by Highland mists at the south east end of Glen Sheil. A huge reservoir stretching for nearly 680 metres from west to east, it is contained by the Cluanie Dam constructed in the 1950s as part of the Glenmoriston hydroelectric project. Tourist shots of Loch Cluanie show spectacular, panoramic vistas, suggesting the elemental, epic landscapes of natural Scottish lochs. In contrast, Mike Perry's large scale series of photographs of Loch Cluanie present the viewer with a puzzling - at times indecipherable - epic landscape genre which explores and indulges the uncomfortable margins of such tourist sites.

Part of a series of inland photographs shot on 10x8" format while driving around remote locations in Wales, Scotland and Ireland in 2005-2008, these images appear both painterly and visually complex. Misty, barren landscapes with high horizons and speckled, muted colours can deceive as shallow surface abstractions, replete with formal effects that mimic paint on canvas. But on closer inspection they can also evoke more troubling narratives on the relationship between 'nature' and the effects of human intervention on landscape, water and geology.

Works such as 'Cross, Rannoch Moor, Scotland, 2008', 'Burnt Gorse, Preseli Hills, Wales, 2005', 'Clearing, Presili Hills, Wales, 2007', 'Fence, Kerry, 2007' offer bleak, dehumanised vistas of scarred or ravaged nature, prompting musings on unpredictable weather changes or irresponsible depletion of natural resources. At the same time, Perry seems to revel in the painterly and poetic opportunities offered by muted winter light and monochromatic tones, grey mists, waterlogged bogs and austere, treeless moors.

He has expressed pessimism about climate change and the future of the planet. Yet his photographs tease the viewer with more ambiguous meanings. They are suggestive 'documents' which seem to hover uneasily between recording the effects of climate change (or simply the elemental ravages of nature) and seductive, painterly surfaces. Perry's 'Wet Deserts' are less iconic than melting glaciers. Yet they invite reflection on what these uninhabited, marginal landscapes might signify in an era threatened by ecological disaster.


Gill Perry
Gill Perry is Professor of Art History at the Open University. She has published books and articles on modern and contemporary art and is co-chair of the conference Radical Nature at the Barbican on 12 September, 2009.

         - Next Level Magazine, September 2009, Below The Surface, feature

         - Gaia Magazine, September 2009 Germany, Front Cover, Beach 17     more

Gaia Magazine (Front Cover), September 2009
Beach 17

         - Greenpeace Magazine, July 20019, centre spread, Germany, Beach 9     more

Greenpeace Magazine, 2009
Beach 9

2006 - The Poacher, Art Portfolio, GQ     more

GQ Magazine, Autumn-Winter 2005/06
The Poacher, Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2006

2005 - Abereiddi, by Craig Burnett, NextLevel Magazine     more

Abereiddi 2, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2004

Abereiddi 2
Pembrokeshire, Wales 2004















Abereiddi 4, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2004

Abereiddi 4
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Abereiddi 7, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2004

Abereiddi 7
Pembrokeshire, Wales 2004

Abereiddi
Review by: Craig Burnett
NextLevel Magazine, No 7, Edition 01, Vol 4, 2005

Humanity used to fear nature, but these days we mostly pity it. The degraded environment is enough to tell us that nature is neither infinitely resilient nor untouched by our presence. No longer the monolithic threat or inexhaustible larder of yore, nature has become a cracked and vulnerable mosaic that needs to be patched up and coddled like a fragile thing, though it remains unmanageably vast. All of this raises the question of what kind of beauty or meaning we can hope to find in the landscape, and whether we can look at the earth at all without being reminded that we probably hastened its senescence.

Mike Perry looks down upon the Abereiddi shoreline with humility and awe. The beauty he finds there is so unaware of its audience, so self-contained, that it almost punishes the vanity of the pleasure we find in it. Yet, where exactly, is the artist? The position of the camera is difficult to identify or measure; the photographs seem to be taken as if the camera were hovering, impossibly, above the rocks. We don't experience the landscape as if from the perspective of an artist seeking a picturesque composition, but rather as if from the casual glance of a seagull, stone or tuft of grass. This denial of a dramatic or picturesque composition grants the landscape a fierce independence.

When Perry packs up his camera and turns away from the cliff, he knows that the water roils and froths, waves buffet the rocks, and an immeasurable range of colours, tones and textures are destroyed and reappear whether the shutter is open or not. Abereiddi, not to mention the whole planet, doesn't need Perry's attention. Perry the artist, however, needs Abereiddi. The aesthetic pleasure he finds in the landscape is tempered by his urge to remove himself - his subjectivity - from the process, an impossible goal that lends a certain melancholy to the project.

Yet pleasure is, of course, subjective, and photography is journalism if it abandons pleasure. Perry knows that it is impossible to eliminate his presence by a kind of artless examination of a specific area, but he carries on regardless. The project, then, is doomed to fail, and its beauty rests in that failure, and in the photographer's equivalent desire to carry on. Perry touched on similar ideas in his 'Beach' series, but - let's be precise - the group of photographs Perry has taken at Abereiddi do not constitute a series. While the 'Beach' photographs are unified by Perry's systematic compositional approach, Perry has loosened up considerably for this group of pictures, evinced by the title itself: Beach is an idea, 'Abereiddi' is a specific location in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Perry is less introspective at Abereiddi.

Perry's ongoing interest in abstract art and its relation to Modernist photography remains a powerful stimulus at Abereiddi. The flattened space and vertiginous perspective allow abstraction to overtake depiction. The combination of dark, intractable blocks of stone and scribbles of white foam suggests the alternating spaces of order and turmoil in a Jonathan Lasker abstract. Water pools in the bay and between rocks like washes of cool, translucent pigment. In one picture, a patch of sky, reflected in a still pool in the upper right of the picture, glows with a purity of blue like some celestial witness to all this non-stop impermanence. In another, taken perhaps just minutes later, the same pool shivers with sudden, extraordinary beauty. These seascapes bring to mind William Blake's grain of sand in which he asks us to find infinity. The sea foam dances and twirls like creamy nebulae in the Milky Way. Look again and the whole universe seems to be crashing against the rocks. Surely that's enough.

Indeed, it's more than enough, but the formal elements will never supersede the limitation - and genius - of photography: no matter how lost we get in the reverie of colour and pattern, we always return to a recognisably specific spot, and a tiny, irretrievable moment. Even so, a grand idea of nature, however we conceive it, is seldom far from our thoughts. The Stoics thought nature, god and reason were one and that peace of mind was achievable only by obeying theirs laws. Baudelaire, on the other hand, saw nature as a filthy inevitability, the origin of all vulgarity and vice. "Good", he said, "is always the product of some art". Perry's photographs set out to find a whiff of both goodness and art. The goodness is in the pursuit of objectivity, which is also an implied ethics of looking at the natural world; the art is in the pleasure he finds, and captures for us, in it's surfaces. A photograph will always fall short of capturing this ideal, but for Perry, photography is a method to carry on and a ritual to placate a few angry gods. And all gods, William Blake reminds us, reside in the human breast. Mike Perry's photographs reveal that nature's dreadfulness, and its indifference, is ours, too. Its beauty is it's own.

2004 - Grand Canyon Forest. Article by Tom Morton in NextLevel Magazine, November 2004     more

Silver Birch 3, North Rim, Grand Canyon, USA 2002

Silver Birch 3
North Rim, Grand Canyon, USA 2002

















Dying Forest 3, North Rim, Grand Canyon, USA 2002

Dying Forest 3
North Rim, Grand Canyon, USA 2002

Dying Forest, Astral America
Review by: Tom Morton
NextLevel Magazine, 2004

The big thing about being a non-American is that you've got to deal with America. Not only in the economic sense (that's all but inescapable), but also in the sense of coping with it, of squaring-up to its rough, alien logic. Non-Americans have no choice in this. In a world in which America has established embassies in every film theatre and fizzy drinks cabinet, dealing with it is something all non-Americans are compelled to do.

Mike Perry's large scale images of America are, it seems to me, in part the product of this imperative. They speak of a material space, sure, but they also open up a mental space in which America, for all that we're familiar with it from its own pervasive self-mediation, may be thought about as truly foreign. Importantly, Perry, a European, accomplishes this not by shooting man-made things (motorways, malls, and other signifiers of kamikaze over-consumption), but by shooting America's 'natural' landscape, in which the Founding Fathers glimpsed manifest destiny. Looking at his photographs, it seems Perry glimpses the same, but (unlike the Founding Fathers) he's aware of its dark side, its accompanying shadows and rot.

America is a place where the horizon sits heavy on the land. We might imagine it as a great leveller, with all the egalitarianism that implies, but that doesn't seem right somehow. A more compelling image is of the horizon as super-compressor, reducing everything beneath it to Hollywood-like two dimensions. Perry's photographs, however, do not replicate this two-dimensionality. Instead, they are possessed of a soft, very un-Hollywood light, a conspicuous pictorial depth, and impose a very European, very Hegelian verticality onto the American landscape. Looking at them, it is as though an the Old World is reminding the New World that it was built on Old World Utopian dreams, and that it's lost its way beneath a boundless, crushing sky.

Two years ago, Perry took a road trip from Phoenix to LA. Stopping at the Grand Canyon, he captured the images reproduced on these pages, which show not the Canyon itself but the trees that grow near its edge. Perry has said that 'I couldn't take a picture of the Grand Canyon', and it's not hard to see why he avoided the subject. What might anyone add to that great, striated scar? A mindless masterpiece, it mocks attempts to represent it, just as the day-tripping tourists - posing for photographs - mock it with their presence. The Canyon's too grand to contemplate, but the nearby forest (with its humble, barely-registered beauty) is a different matter. It is, as Perry's shots show, a tangled space where one might untangle one's thoughts about America and all America means. The trees in Grand Canyon Forest 1, Grand Canyon Silver Birch 1 and Grand Canyon Silver Birch 2 (all works 2002) resemble passages from abstract paintings, all Barnett Newman zips and Jackson Pollock drips. Their arrangement's almost gestural, as if a human had a hand in their higgledy-piggledy layout, and they're the product of choice rather than pre-destination. They also feel oddly old fashioned (nowadays, even Nature's occasionally anachronistic), so perhaps it's appropriate that they cluster on the Canyon's margins. In post-modern America, Modernism - like ordinary people, like nuanced political discourse - is a peripheral concern.

         - Art Review Magazine. Beach 17, featured as part of review of Photo London, May 2004     more

Art Review Magazine, May 2004



Art Review Magazine, May 2004
Beach 17

         - Dazed & Confused Magazine. Page article and review of Beach work, May 2004

         - GREAT, The photographers' Gallery Publication, Preview of April show, 2004

         - Arena Magazine. Feature on Beach and review of book, March 2004

2003 - Beach, essay by Craig Burnett, London: NextLevel and Thames & Hudson     more

Beach 17, 2002

Beach 17
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Beach 2, 2002

Beach 2
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Beach 11, 2002

Beach 11
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Beach 9, 2002

Beach 9
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Beach 4, 2002

Beach 4
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Beach 21, 2002

Beach 21
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Beach 7, 2002

Beach 7
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Beach 18, 2002

Beach 18
2002

Beach
Essay by: Craig Burnett
Monograph, Thames & Hudson, 2003

In the opening photograph of Mike Perry's Beach series, a few waves of no particular significance rise gently in the distance while another, at the end of its journey, limps up the beach. The clouds, soft and far away, create an unremarkable haze. The sea rolls in the light, punctuated by a couple of rocks, and stones stipple the foreground in harmonious tones of grey and ochre. At first glance, the image offers almost nothing. Could a seascape be duller, more featureless? The calm suggests something portentous. There must be a reason for this photograph: it must have a utilitarian function. It must have been taken to tell us something. But the view seems defined by the lack of drama and a blankness of function. The structure of the image, a tightly controlled grid of horizontal panels, eliminates the possibility that the purpose of the photograph is to show us, as if from an ideal viewpoint, an beautiful landscape. Lacking a human presence, it refuses to offer any social or spiritual meaning. The view verges on the dreary, the sea is calm, the sky reveals nothing, the stones sit stolidly, mute.

To take this photograph, and the others in the Beach series, Perry drove to a few different stretches of humdrum beach along the south coast of England, somewhere east of Brighton, where he set up his 10x8" camera. Some pictures were taken just after dawn, others mid afternoon and in soft rain. None of the images depicts a privileged place or moment, but show us nature at its least expressive. We are looking over a busy shipping channel, a run-down highway of the sea. Nearby and all around, this sea and these beaches have hosted countless freighters, invasions, smugglers, dreamers and walkers. It happens to be among the most despoiled and worn-out seascapes on earth - neither sacred nor beautiful, it's an unlikely subject for a series of sumptuous, large-scale photographs. Yet Perry found something worth looking at on these beaches.

Perry's serial approach to taking photographs within an implied or explicit compositional structure based on a grid, introduced a scale of reference into a group of images that might otherwise suggest a pseudo-scientific study in the nature of marine conditions. The serial structure gives each photograph an equal value. and the grid compositions quote abstract painting, both the modernist grid and contemporary abstraction. By working in a series, he challenges the notion that there is a privileged or ideal version of the beach. Perry's stalled moments need not be treasured singly, but repeated, and made profuse in repetition. The series is theoretically infinite.

Literature and the visual arts usually portray the seas a site of melodramatic beauty or terror. Whether calm or violent, mysterious or familiar, icy or lusciously warm, overflowing with food or harbouring hideous monsters, the sea possesses an enormous capacity to absorb and deflect meaning.

The paintings of Turner inevitably come to mind when we think of the English seaside. At his most Romantic, Turner tended to mythologise the sea as an engulfing vortex, an implacable force in a sensational battle with humanity's puny will. But when Andreas Gursky photographed three Turner seascapes hanging in the Tate, he showed how alien - even quaint - some ideas about the sublime have become to contemporary eyes. In Gursky's photograph, the Turner paintings look like portals to an ancient sea. Although Turner's paintings retain their atmospheric power and we may gasp in awe at his breathtaking mastery of paint, we take their melodrama and their ideas with a grain of salt.

Perry, by contrast, is dedicated to depicting as objectively as his skill and technology permit, the surface detail of the seascape. To do so, he uses plain Kodak film stock that captures the subtleties of the neutral colour, and he doesn't alter the contrast or hue by computer manipulation. He is interested in perception unencumbered by expectations of meaning or drama. The self- consciousness of the compositional structure reinforces this objective by frustrating our desire to apply sentimental or generic connotation to the seas. Alongside this impulse is an interest in the aesthetic potential of the overlooked detail, the pleasure of looking at forms and colours created by the delicate and evanescent plays of light on seascapes.

The two modes of the photographs, the perceptual and the meditative, work together to invite the viewer to appreciate a version of the external world that exists whether we look at it or not, free from a measure that transcends human perception.

This the Beach photographs offer a sustained meditation on the visual experience and a mental space for emotional and imaginative play. To be successful, they must embody a paradox by being austere yet vivid, a trace of the world with the capacity to project a life of their own. Even while the photographs draw upon the language of abstract painting to open up this space, they never become purely abstract.

We could look at Edward Weston's studies of Los Lobos and Oceana for a similar project, but whereas Weston's photographs celebrate the beauty and drama of natural forms in dramatic black and white, seeking, perhaps an essence of a place or living thing, Perry looks for the colourful dirt, the changing light of the everyday.

Stephen Shore has suggested that he would like to photograph landscapes the way Chinese poets looked at them; on their own terms, without reading for metaphoric language for description. To think of the photographer's gaze in terms of clarity and passivity is one way to start looking at Mike Perry's photographs. Equally, they develop a life of their own, an internal energy, and they face us like the stones kept by Chinese scholars: formal objects of contemplation in whose microcosmic forms we can roam for sheer pleasure of looking and imagining. The clarity of the photographs allow them to become aids to reflection.

Look at Beach 17. The sharply defined parallel bands of colour divert our apprehension from depiction to composition. Looking at the image from afar, visual pleasure arises from the sense of scale and the compositional harmony. From a closer position, however, the blurry foreground and scale of the image creates a vertiginous effect, plunging the viewer into the individual elements. On the left, a little wave lifts and stretches before its gentle crash. The essence is not an abstraction, but an accumulation of detail: the echo of the crashing wave in the cloud formations, the way the colour of the sea changes from a deep blue horizon in the distance to a greenish-ochre slab before if becomes a white strip of foam along the beach, echoing the colours of the sky. Moving back again, one can take in the deliberateness of the composition. Three almost perfect even bands of sky, sea and beach - free of melodrama, aggression or longing - convey a meditative and emotional calm.

Beach 11 offers another way to think about Perry's pictures. The rigid composition that lends an implied grid to the whole series, giving equal value to the beach, sea and sky, has given way to a looser structure. The viewer's eye might alight on the pale stone in sharp focus at the centre of the composition or wander to the frothy, beige waves rising and tumbling background. In the centre of the picture, the foam creates a silky texture streaked with inimitable crests and surges, little marks in time recorded by the camera. On one level Perry has recorded a never - returning moment, a play of foam and water. Once you get lost in the surface detail, the suggestive potential of the images grows. Indeed, the visual structure of the photograph, along with Beaches 21-23 resembles an Yves Tanguy painting such as The Ribbon of Extremes (1932), and may evoke a similar perceptual and meditative experience. Tanguy used naturalistic conventions to bestow a sense of space and light on his almost abstract images, making vividly palpable a molten interior of impulses and vague feelings. The stones in Perry's photographs are not unlike Tanguy's anthropomorphic forms that fill the foreground of his paintings, and the sea and sky form a series of layers that hint at infinite recesses of space as they do in Tanguy's work. The vivid details draw us into the image and, once inside, they invite us to let the seascape evoke sensations, recall feelings and introduce metamorphic readings.

We could look at one of Perry's images and imagine a slab of unknowing, crashing eternally on the conscious shoreline but remaining unfathomable. After all, we attribute moods to the sea, we project our emotions and symbolic value into its blankness and this seems fair enough. Playing with the haziness of the things we see and making things up is part of the pleasure of looking and a reasonable approach to Perry's Beach images.

But let's not get carried away. Although Perry may be exploring similar visual experiences as Tanguy, neither state of mind nor infinity resides over the horizon. France does.

In the history of photography, we could look at Sieglitz's Equivalents, perhaps the first best-known series of photographs that converted nature's forms into abstractions. By 'equivalents', Stieglitz meant that he wished to create an image equivalent to a spiritual state, as if it were a diagram comprehensible to anyone, an impulse that partook of the universalising drive of modernist abstraction since Kandinsky and Malevich.

Contemporary artists, however, tend to keep a skeptical eye fastened on specific things. Jeff Wall's Diagonal Compositions are brilliant and affectionate parodies of early geometric abstraction. Wall replaces ostensibly universal forms with filthy, worn-out sinks, and demonstrates how photography both records a fragment of the real but also depends on formal harmonies - and illusions - for its success.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, probably the best-known contemporary photographer of seascapes, offers a superficially similar approach to Perry's. But whereas Sugimoto seeks variations on a theme of universality, Perry finds detail and specificity at a nameless place. While Sugimoto quotes modernist abstraction, seeking something ideal at a precisely named location, Perry celebrates the complexity of a single anonymous perspective.

One of the strengths of Perry's Beach photographs rests in how his determination to show us the details of an actual place combines with the serial structure to make the images resistant to abstractions and metaphysical interpretations.

Though waves threaten to engulf the composition and introduce a moment of narrative or drama, the sense of peril - of the sublime - does not eliminate the abundance of detail or the formal harmonies that allow for the contemplative mood of Beach 1.

When Perry permits a wave to wash away the implied grid structure. It is not to reveal the power or mystery of the sea. He plays with its forces and astonishing variety to tease it into revealing a new surface with every picture. The almost monochromatic pulses of whites, greys and greens is more likely to bring to mind a Robert Ryman painting than a Turner.

In Beach 7, the sky is an unarticulated sheet of blue-grey, the sea a greener and textured version of the same colour. Across the centre of the composition the shutter has caught a curtain of transparent water beneath a wave at its peak. The frozen waves reveals a seabed of muted gold. When Perry enlarged this photograph to its full dimensions of 5' x 6', he noticed lines streaking the print along the seabed. He thought they were scratches, a fault in the paper or printing process. In fact, the lines are stones being dragged into the sea by an ebbing wave, tracing both time and space across the film in the process. But the unexpected presence of sliding stones does not just illustrate a process or characteristic of the beach. It is a surface detail, a moment made visible by Perry's serial approach.

In Beach 18, the beach appears drained of colour and drama, and the surface of subtle textures and gentle inflections of tone bathe the image in seductive melancholy. Look at the formal harmonies Perry has found on the flat, grey day. The wisps of pale sand echo the crests of the waves, the colour of the sky reflects in the surface of the sea, and in the shadows of the rising waves we see dark grey tones of the sand. The sky could be a block of granite or a sheet of delicate lace, the sea a cauldron of molten lead or a slab of tactile putty, the sand a velvety drape. But the gorgeous surface gives the photograph its power rather than any metamorphic potential. The images reference Gerhard Richter's grey series of paintings and his more recent abstract work that is built upon horizontal (and vertical) smears and layers of colour. Richter's paintings thwart metaphysical interpretations to bring the viewer back to the materiality of paint. Likewise, Perry finds on the beach what he admires in Richter abstracts: a density and clarity of sensation and pleasure in surface detail.

The Beach series invites the viewer to look closely at stones, water and light, all the details that help to recuperate the seascape as an object worthy of contemplation in itself, free of expectations of significance or revelation. By looking at something so familiar and featureless and by looking at it repeatedly and tenderly, Perry invites us to see, in the half-life of a worn out landscape, a hint of sufficiency.

         - Cactus photograph published in NextLevel. as part of End Of Imagination article by Arundhati Roy, March 2003     more

NextLevel Magazine, March 2003
Cactus 2, Arizona, US, 2002

         - Frankfurter Rundschau. Review of Abereiddi and Beach book, December 2003     more

Frankfurter Rundschau
Review of Abereiddi 1 and Beach Monograph, Dec 2003

2002 - Breaking Oil, 'US Flag', NextLevel Magazine, text by Bianca Jagger     more

US Flag Oil Refinery09

Flag, BP Refinery
California, USA 2002





Arco Oil Refinery

Arco Refinery
California, USA 2002

Breaking Oil, 'US Flag'
Article by: Bianca Jagger
NextLevel Magazine, Edition 02 Volume 01, 2002

As we find ourselves waging war in a greenhouse, Bianca Jagger argues that the Stop Esso Campaign holds unique potential to brake the root cause.

If we don't cut greenhouse gas emissions deeply in the years ahead, global warming will spread a rising tide of economic and environmental devastation across nations with just as awesome a firepower as B-52s.

As long as a decade ago a multi-government panel warned the impacts of global warming would be "second only to nuclear war" if we don't cut greenhouse-gas emissions deeply. Take just two of these impacts. Proliferating climate disasters in the 1990s have left top insurers publicly fearful that their industry will be bankrupted. The world's biggest reinsurance company has warned that the shock of this trillion dollar global industry going under will bring down the capital markets. Temperature-sensitive coral reefs, the second most diverse ecosystem on the planet, began showing worrying signs of heat stress in the early 1990s. Today they are dying in anomalously warm waters in every ocean basin, and face extinction within just decades.

We should face it squarely. We are locked into a suicidal cycle that is at once ecocidal and - how can we escape the conclusion? - genocidal. The citizens of the drowning Pacific atoll nation Tuvalu, who today are packing their bags to leave their homeland for New Zealand, accused the industrial nations of "cultural" genocide in the UN as long ago as 1993 because of our fossil-fuel profligacy. We didn't stop or even slow the burning then, even though a quarter of the UN member governments - the Alliance of Small Island States - was pleading with us to do so. We have not slowed it since. Now half of Europe seems to be under water as the worst floods for a century sweep down not just one but several major rivers across half a dozen countries.

Will this circle of death whirl us round from one oil-and-gas war and climatic catastrophe to the next until the planet is cooked, or will developments emerge capable of braking the circle, and creating space for an alternative outcome? On the answer to this question will hinge the fate of civilization.

One development rich in possibilities is the StopEsso campaign. ExxonMobil, or Esso, as it is known outside the USA, holds outstandingly the worst record on global warming in the oil sector. It is alone among the oil giants in denying the existence of the enhanced-greenhouse problem, and asserting that investment in renewable energy is not needed. Long after BP, Shell and Texaco stopped paying lobbyists to block the climate negotiations, Exxon has continued to do so. Its approach to commercially inconvenient scientific information about its product rivals the worst of the tobacco companies. It played a major role in putting an oilman in the White House, and is unapologetic about the scandalous relaxation of pollution rules that was one of his first payback acts. It lobbied the White House to get the American Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change kicked out of his post for saying global warming is a problem, and succeeded.

The Brent Spar campaign against Shell which, in 1996, led to a historic step-change in boardroom thinking about the environment, was a campaign about dumping oil platforms, something that all oil companies were happy to do at the time. The Stop Esso campaign is different. Now, for the first time in corporate history, consumers across the world have picked on a company with a boycott campaign aiming to force it, at minimum, into line with the rest of its sector.

To succeed, the campaigners may only need to impact Exxon's turnover a little. Indeed, the campaign might succeed even if the company's mountainous sales aren't noticeably affected. The constant drumbeat of negative publicity alone may cause major shareholders to call for a u-turn. If that happens, the corporate world will never be the same again. Every big company in the world will be seeking to ensure consumers can never gang up on it as an environmental foot-dragger.

The renewable micropower technologies remain dwarfed by oil, gas and coal despite all we know about the threat of global warming. Yet their potential is vast and uncontroversial. In a u-turn by Exxon might just lie the spark of hope capable of igniting the micropower revolution. With that, faster than most people think possible, can come release from dependence on overseas oil, and escape from the worst of global warming's impacts.

There might be no better way for an individual or organisation to take a shot at breaking the circle of death than by taking a shot at Exxon.

         - Front cover and 4 page editorial in first issue of NextLevel, February 2002     more