Exhibition. Photo by Samia Uddin © Social Streets
CultureLocalThe arts

Maureen Paley exhibits Hannah Starkey: Women in Spaces

In six images, Hannah Starkey’s exhibition at Maureen Paley explores women’s representation through large-scale photographs capturing everyday moments.

Maureen Paley’s Gallery near Three Colts Lane Tavern is one of those hidden jewels, well-known in the art world but little-known by locals. Hidden in an industrial area just off Three Colts Lane, only the intentional will find it. 

A simple square sign reading ‘Maureen Paley’ leads you into a surprisingly serene space, with particularly high ceilings and the pre-requisite white-painted walls. At the moment the space is charged with the energy of Starkey’s large-scale C-type prints.

The clean, minimalistic space allows Starkey’s photographs to dominate and provides an intimate setting that enhances the viewer’s experience. 

One of the standout pieces is “Untitled, January 2023,” which portrays young women at Capa College, Wakefield, engaged in various acts of looking and photographing.

Untitled artwork by Hannah Starkey in 2023.
Untitled, January 2023. Photo by Samia Uddin © Social Streets

A girl stands on a bench, capturing a photo of her friend, who holds a copy of “Contemporary Monologues for Teenagers: Female” whilst wearing a Superdry puffer jacket. 

Other young women in the scene add to this intricate loop of looking. 

One gazes up at the girl on the bench, while another, seen from behind, is silhouetted against the background. Through a window, more young women can be seen, seemingly oblivious to their role in this visual narrative. 

The layers of reflections and shadows (all subtly directed by the artist’s unseen hand) prompt reflections on authenticity and control.

Who is dictating the narrative? and who is more ‘real’: the self-conscious subjects or those blissfully unaware of the camera’s presence?

Artwork titled Metaverse by Hannah Starkey.
Metaverse, May 2022. Photo by Samia Uddin © Social Streets

This second image responds to a documentary exposing dangers in the metaverse. 

Your attention is drawn to the girl in the middle, who is 15 years old, as she stands amidst VR headset-wearing figures. 

The eerie blue tint and perfect symmetry amplify the unsettling atmosphere whilst the stance of the girl depicts a wariness of the virtual space around her.

Untitled artwork by Hannah Starkey.
Untitled, June 2020. Photo by Samia Uddin © Social Streets

A woman wears a COVID mask, her green painted nails holding onto a bag whilst she looks off into a distance. 

Her curly hair is bright even against the backdrop of wave-like paint swirls that, upon closer look, blur into buildings.

Untitled artwork by Hannah Starkey.
Untitled, November 2023. Photo by Samia Uddin © Social Streets
Untitled artwork by Hannah Starkey.
Untitled, April 2024. Photo by Samia Uddin © Social Streets

Displayed in the second room, Starkey’s self-portraits show her fragmented image reflected in a mirrored ceiling. 

This visual device feels symbolic of the complexities of self-representation and the layered nature of identity.

Each untitled photograph captures a moment that feels both intimate and expansive, which 

‘Her photos are focusing on the moment. As a very consistent artist, her work is recognised by its dates rather than the name.’ Oliver, the director states when asked about the reason for the Untitled pieces.

Starkey herself says: ‘My work speaks to women about not needing to perform for the gaze.’ So by not providing titles, the photographs are allowed to speak for themselves, as it places the focus on the subjects and their interactions rather than framing them within a specific narrative or context.

Hannah Starkey is known for her staged photography, exploring women’s lives and experiences. Her work often features everyday scenes with complex visual narratives.

Starkey’s notable works include “Untitled, May 1997” and her 2019 solo exhibition at The Hepworth Wakefield. Her photos challenge the viewer’s gaze and highlight women’s perspectives.

The Maureen Paley Gallery, located at 60 Three Colts Lane, E2 6GQ, will be exhibiting her recent work until the 14th of July.

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