For over a decade, Simon Roberts has photographed events and places across Britain that draw people together in public. He reflects on the nature of our shared histories and communal experiences.
Merrie Albion – Landscape Studies of a Small Island brings together iconic images and many previously unpublished photographs.
These images record social practices and customs linked to the British landscape, as well as the economic and political theatre helping to define recent history.
Work in the exhibition ranges across various projects. From single photographs made around the time of major photographic project We English, to subsequent work as the official artist of the 2010 General Election and his National Property: The Picturesque Imperfect series.
Juxtaposing history and contemporary culture
David Chandler, professor of photography at University of Plymouth, said: “Roberts’ work presents the viewer with complex relationships between people and places and incongruous juxtapositions of history and contemporary culture that create gentle ironies and underlying tensions across the images.
“Played out through particular local and regional contexts, it is these tensions that ultimately deny any consistency of mood and resist the coherent, and possibly seductive sense of binding national characteristics.”
Roberts’ interests have often gravitated towards evolving patterns of leisure, and the complex relationship between history, place and culture.
However, he has also photographed events with a more immediate, topical significance in Britain’s recent past.
Collectively they form a detached visual chronicle of the times we live in.
In works such as Broadstairs Dickens Festival, Isle of Thanet, the landscape resembles a stage set for the costumed characters performing on the beach.
Other examples range from religious festivals – Eid al-Fitr Celebrations, Jamia Mosque, Bristol – to social and political events – After the Riots, London Road, Croydon, and Grenfell Tower, North Kensington, London.
Roberts creates a view of contemporary society that is far from straightforward.
He critically conflates the traditional genre of landscape with social documentary, layering ideas of national character through relationships to both place and particular moments in time.
Merrie Albion – Landscape Studies of a Small Island
Merrie Albion – Landscape Studies of a Small Island is on at Flowers Gallery London until March 10, 2018.
The exhibition is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm.
For more information visit www.flowersgallery.com
Main image: Eid al-Fitr Celebrations, Jamia Mosque, Green Street, Bristol, August 8, 2013 © Simon Roberts, courtesy of Flowers Gallery