Diana Matar

13 May - 6 June 2016

Purdy Hicks is pleased to present their first solo exhibition by Diana Matar. Photographs from four series of works, mostly photographed in Egypt and Libya, will be shown in the exhibition: Evidence, Disappearance, Witness and Still Far Away.

Diana Matar's work is concerned with memory. Often spending years on a theme, she attempts to capture the invisible traces of human history. Specifically she is concerned with power and violence and the question of what role aesthetics might play in their depiction. Her photographs are conscious of the past and are the result of a rigorous enquiry into the possibility that a contemporary image might contain memory. Time is an integral element in the making of her work, both in the sense that her photographs are often taken at night, where film is subjected to long exposure times, but also in the sense that her work arises from a cultivated patience that is attentive to the resonance of a particular place.

Works from Still Far Away have never been exhibited before. The colour landscapes focus on post revolutionary Libya and the silent resonance of its dictatorial and colonial past. Disappearance is a work that uses the enforced disappearance of the artist’s father-in-law as an anchor. Jaballa Matar, a Libyan political dissident, was kidnapped in 1990 and not seen by his family again. For six years, Diana Matar scanned through places—first in Egypt and Italy, where anti-Gaddafi dissidents were active, and later in Libya after the revolution - in search of traces of her father-in-law. Though her work is about Jaballa Matar, he is nowhere to be found in any of the photographs. The series is a sustained enquiry into how photography might convey the absence of a person no longer with us. For Evidence Matar systematically photographed architectural spaces used by the regime to disappear people over a period of 42 years. She has said their existence stands in as a kind of imperfect evidence to the events that went undocumented by the regime. In Witness Matar explores specific sites in Rome where the regime attacked dissidents living abroad. These four bodies of work explore the depths with which the regime affected society and intimate family life and they query the role photography might play in focusing on events often hidden from history.

Matar writes, 'What ties my work together is its relation to history – if I photograph a building I am not interested in its structure, but what happened inside. If I make an image of a tree I am concerned not by the form of its roots or length of its trunk, but by what it has witnessed over the course of its life. When I take a portrait of a person i don't care about what they look like, what fascinates me is what they have experienced in the past.'

Diana Matar is an artist working with photography, testimony, and archive. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, Matar has been the recipient of the Deutsche Bank Pyramid Award for Fine Art, the International Fund for Documentary Photography Award, and Arts Council of England Individual Artist Grant. A major installation of her work Evidence was shown in the major exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography at Tate Modern travelling to Museum Folkswang Essen; Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, 2014 - 2015. Her first monograph, Evidence, was published in November 2014 by Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam and chosen by New York Times Photography Critic Teju Cole as best book of the year. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Santa Barbara Museum, Santa Barbara and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London