Julie Cockburn: Balancing Act

Julie Cockburn (b.1966, UK) is renowned for re-imagining and re-configuring found objects and vintage photographs into meticulously constructed and unique contemporary artworks. The new works on display in Balancing Act - Cockburn’s third solo exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery - are rich in landscape, domesticity, and the human form, altered by her playful language of abstraction and intervention.

What at first appear to be almost random, flippant scrawls or slaps of colour, are in fact painstakingly and perfectly stitched and set into the original found photographs using impressively assured composition. Large black and white scenes of epic wilderness are surrounded by smaller, soulful, homespun album photos, and abstract shapes come bouncing into conventional, picturesque landscapes, interrupting the scenic tranquillity. Graphic embroidered compositions almost entirely obscure images of anonymous ice-skating figures, amplifying the balance between the exuberance and tension of performance.

Each act of layering and mark-making is, however subtle or iconoclastic, executed with equal measure of commitment, precision, and a desire to engage.

Cockburn made the majority of work in Balancing Act during the recent lockdown. Whilst none of the work overtly refers to Covid-19 it is, says Cockburn, impossible now to look at the work without seeing it through the lens of the pandemic.

“ Balancing Act is an exhibition of works I made before, during and after Lockdown. I live on my own and work from home, so little overtly changed in the logistics of my day-to-day life. Like everyone, I carefully negotiated my way through the news bulletins and supermarket aisles, cautious not to become overwhelmed with the enormity of the pandemic. While in isolation, I noticed how much we connected by sharing our creativity on social media in an act of showing and being seen – our bread, our gardens, our dances, our cardboard animated projects. This is my show and tell.” - Julie Cockburn 


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