Beaconsfield, 22 Newport St, Vauxhall, London, SE11 6AY

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    Title : JDEan Odeto.Counter.5724 SML
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    Title : JDean. Odeto..IMG 5718 SML
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    Title : JDean Beacinvite2
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    Title : JDean Hang.IMG 5695.Med

Judith Dean: Phase 4
Beaconsfield, London
11 October - 30 November 2013
Review by Cicely Farrer

In 2011 Time Magazine declared the Protester its person of the year, re-appropriating and only slightly altering a photograph of a woman with a bandana tied around her face at an Occupy protest in LA to stand in for protesters around the world, from the US movement to the so-called Arab Spring. Its muddling of contexts drew attention to the mediation and (mis)appropriation of images across the world.

In Judith Dean’s Phase 4 exhibition she questions this tendency both in terms of its widespread implications and within the locality of Beaconsfield. Making the proposition, ‘Everything is already an image’, the exhibition presents printed pictures depicting segments of political and social events that took place and continue to take place globally. The artist is often associated with sculpture and the manipulation of existing objects; here she moves towards the proliferated image as her ready-made and in doing so touches upon a hotly debated contemporary trope, making a case for the missing ‘larger image’.

The exhibition sees the artist redistribute photos from her personal image bank via a desktop printer. Her initial relationship to them was likely similar to that of her public, coming across them via her computer screen and its pixelated images. The proposition may allude to the digital and its condition, but these images have been made tangible and in doing so ruminate on their transience. Their flimsy, strangely-hued presence highlights the fragility of both their printed and .jpeg form, and their contents ask the audience to remember the physical context of each event they portray. The anticipation of a screen-based show is toyed with - monitors, if not purposefully switched off, display static grey backgrounds flickering as if about to switch to a news channel or power down.

30 artworks, predominantly constellations of A4 colour printed images, extend across the gallery site, closing in on the sites of leisure and becoming inescapable. By referencing Ray Bradbury’s science fiction novel ‘The Veldt’ (1950), the artist invites you to envisage the gallery walls as giant computer screens and the individual images like singular pixels recreating the interface of the infinite online experience. It takes a bit of imagination to do so - formally, the idea doesn’t quite translate.

A large X-shaped work, aptly named ‘Big Kiss’ (2013) amasses pictures of military parades and marching officers, in stark contrast to an archival shot of the suffragettes protesting with white placards at the furthest corner. This juncture encourages the visitor to consider the act of coming together in protest as opposed to organised military action, and is especially pertinent in light of the mass protests of recent times.
Unlike Dean’s previous sculptural works, where politics is implicit, these images point directly to her concerns. But the cropped or enlarged images frequently capture only part of the whole image, and are at times too pixellated to comprehend. The confused context points to the larger problem of appropriating and mediating images for an artist who works specifically with the complexities of site. The action creates a space to deliberate what is outside of these cropped selections, but this issue of ‘the global and the local’ could do with still more consideration: her adoption of multiple images threatens to become quite arbitrary as they move between themes. Dean’s conscious juxtapositions of themes are clearly visible, but - appropriately for her starting proposition - the artist does not expand on them, which ultimately becomes problematic in light of the complexity of the subject matter.

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