RCA Society

Roderick Coyne “Overlaid Landscapes”

Mourning for the soldiers who were slaughtered in the First World War can never be complete. No final requiem terminates the collective lamentation. Roderick Coyne's photographs of the Somme show the affinity of the French landscape to the corresponding geological formations in south-east England. In this exhibition a whole wall is given over to French and English woodlands together with a computer assisted merger. We are implicitly invited to speculate about answers to the question: "Were south-east England to have been the battlefield, how different might the collective regrets, guilts and memories of the participating nations have been ?"

Everything on display involves photography, each exhibit using it to different effect, always on a grand scale and with technical perfection, sometimes together with other materials (slate). A vivid close-up of cut birch stumps, amputated, is entitled "Portrait". In stark contrast, "July Landscape", referring to that month in 1916, is the product of extreme enlargement, the fields of different crops forming almost flat bands of colour, perspective cues being limited to slight tilts in boundaries near the top of the picture plane.

The wounds and scars in the ground of the battlefield seem largely healed, long ago, by incursions of vegetation, whether in the form of small woodlands or farmland. An enormous crater near La Boisselle is represented by a single tree growing on its rim, whose form closely resembles both the shape of the void below and the historical photograph of the explosion that made it.

There is a beautiful photograph of a simple plate, maybe its a tin plate used in the trenches, ironically entitled "Trophy".

"Shutter" is constructed from overlaid A3 panels.  It depicts a sunlit patch of turf, interrupted by the shadows of memorial stones in an adjacent cemetery. A slight rotation of the viewpoint transforms the impression of  shadows into solid figures, equalising the extents of dark and light, the suggestions of death and survival.  "Half the Seed" exploits the trompe l'oeil potential of photography. Initially I thought it was a printed photo on which a large number of fully 3D seeds had been scattered and glued into position.  Then as I moved nearer, I came to the conclusion that some of  these apparently 3D seeds were actually part of a flat print.  Finally, squinting sideways, my eyes not more than an inch away, I realised that the picture was pure photography. Its title is a conscious reference to Wilfred Owen's poem "The Parable of The Old Man and the Young":

"....Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him

But the old man would not do so, but slew his son,

And half the seed of Europe, one by one."

Ken Adams


Work shown at

43 Inverness Street Gallery

London NW1 7HD

Sept - Oct 2015