28 October - 7 December
Photographic artist Owen Roseblade will debut his London Safari for a six-week exhibition, beginning 28 October in Westbourne Grove Artspace. The collection puts a wild new spin on the architecture of England's capital city: in each of Roseblade's twelve photographic compositions, an iconic London edifice is transformed into a big game animal, its body parts the ordinary structural pieces — the doors, staircases, windows and towers — of the buildings we dwell in and among. Together, the pieces are a bold and inventive reimagining of London's skyline.
London Safari is a testament to Roseblade's unaffected way of looking at the world around him, his sense of wonderment and almost-kidlike awe at London's streets, the way he sees — truly sees — the buildings most Londoners no longer even notice. From a photographic standpoint, Roseblade has always been more interested in urban landscapes than natural ones; it is from the city that he derives inspiration for his work. Out of his love of cityscapes came London Safari. Three years ago, as a relative newcomer to London wandering the city streets, Roseblade imagined entrances becoming gaping mouths, street lamps morphing into beady eyes, and chimneys and railings resembling whiskers and tusks, teeth and horns. The distinctive Greater London Authority City Hall was where London Safari took root, and the ideas it yielded would become the cornerstone of the entire project. To Roseblade, the building's asymmetrical dome revealed just a part of its story. Rising up out of the ground, the dome looked to Roseblade like the abdomen of an insect, its head buried deep beneath the earth. On the heels of this revelation, he shot hundreds of photos of and around City Hall, finding the tail, eyes and antennae nearby. Once he started assembling the photos in Photoshop, Roseblade found that the wasp came together naturally over the course of a week — it's still his favourite Safari animal.
'It wasn't so much about creating something as simply capturing it, unveiling it or, in the wasp's case, unearthing it,' Roseblade says. 'I wanted to show other people what I was seeing but realised of course that I had to put things together. I wanted to be true to the buildings, not to manipulate much at all — simply take pictures, take them home and put them together.'
Shooting on that first day ended in Parliament Square, where the light was casting dark shadows upon the Gothic architecture, and in this setting Roseblade imagined a lion. With his textured mane and body, the lion presented challenges that the wasp hadn't. And this time around, it wasn't enough merely to create another animal; with the lion, Roseblade wanted to evoke a more visceral reaction. He envisioned a lion whose face would suggest power and regality but also kindness and justice; he wanted to create eyes that would engulf the viewer.
By this time, Roseblade had decided he wanted to expand upon these ideas and build a menagerie of animals that would eventually become London Safari, although initially he didn't have enough ideas to flesh out an entire group. Thus began the ongoing difficulty of marrying spontaneous creativity with his determination to complete the set. As Roseblade didn't want to bend the project to his will, waiting instead for inspiration to strike, the project took more than three years to complete, and in almost every case, the buildings inspired the creatures — not the other way around. Roseblade would catch a glimpse of a hippopotamus's mouth or a zebra's ears, and that would send him on a hunt — Roseblade felt the term 'safari' became particularly apt here — for the rest of the animal's component parts. Each photographic composition utilised between ten and twenty photos, and only those photos; Roseblade added no other hand-drawn or computer-generated graphics, allowing the photographs to speak for themselves. He feels that each animal ended up with its own narrative and disposition, and that each is symbolic of an aspect of London's multi-faceted character: The wasp is an allusion to the swarms of tourists that invade London's South Bank each summer, for instance, whilst the cobra, comprised of Westfield's escalators and glass ceilings, is a commentary on consumerism.
'Our architecture is a legacy,' Roseblade says. 'It is an immovable, iconic and public record of our city's rich heritage. What people design and build reflects the times and culture they live in. This project is about bringing interpretations of this wide array of architecture into one place.'
A special preview evening is scheduled for 27 October from 7.30 to 10 pm. To RSVP, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07708 799854. Readers can also request an invitation by visiting londonsafari.org.
For more information, visit londonsafari.org.
About the exhibition
The London Safari exhibition includes twelve different photographic compositions. And like a magician spilling his secrets, Roseblade is allowing viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the making of the compositions. Each animal will include a legend with some of the raw images Roseblade used to create the piece. The gallery will also screen a making-of video that reveals enough of the process to captivate viewers without giving the game away entirely.
About Owen Roseblade
Owen Roseblade is a London-based photographer specialising in creative promotional portraits, and a designer, graphic artist and branding expert. Roseblade believes that purely personal creative endeavours nourish and enrich his commercial work; he operates under the philosophy that spending ten to fifteen percent of his regular working hours experimenting on his own art provides a precious wealth of influence for his commercial work and enables him to remain competitive. London Safari, Roseblade's debut artistic exhibition, is an outgrowth of that philosophy and, at two and a half years in the making, his most extensive personal project to date.
To see more of Roseblade's commercial and personal work, visit www.roseblade.com.