Gideon Mendel: Drowning World

7 June - 27 July 2013

Tiwani Contemporary presents Drowning World, an exhibition by South African photographer Gideon Mendel and curated by Christine Eyene. The selection includes fifteen images taken in Nigeria that have never been exhibited, and five photographs documenting flooding in various parts of the globe including England, India, Haiti and Australia. Mendel is also presenting a two­-part video of people living amidst floodwaters in Bangkok, as well as video portraits of Nigerian citizens returning to their flooded homes.

Drowning World is a poignant depiction of climate change through portraits of flood survivors taken in deep floodwaters, within the remains of their homes or in submerged landscapes, in the stillness of once lively environments. Keeping their composure, the subjects pause in front of Mendel’s camera, casting an unsettling, yet engaging gaze. These images, taken across the globe, demonstrate a shared experience that erases geographical and cultural divides. They invite the viewer to reflect on the impact on nature by humankind and our attachment to our homes and personal belongings.

Beyond the documentary aspect of the project, Gideon Mendel subtly adopts the aesthetics of portraiture, yet pushes the boundaries by staging the photographs in unlikely environments. Each portrait isolates an individual, couple or small group that would otherwise be represented by a statistic. The portraits also reveal personality and status through clothes, style and even elegance.

As well as representing destruction, water also contributes to the creative process. Washed-out pigments create new painterly patterns, damaged films produce soft tones and mysterious haze, while architecture and landscape are reflected in a sparkling natural mirror.

The selection compiled for this exhibition highlights the confusion of the senses when faced with the sight of landscapes of desolation and the attractiveness of colours and compositions. It seeks to examine the tension between drama and the picturesque, and the fine line between documentary and artistic imagery.