Eric Gyamfi transforms the gallery into a monochromatic cosmos, examining how photography can shift meanings and histories – ‘fixing shadows’ of legacy, absence, and revival. Six thousand cyanotype prints densely cover the gallery walls in the first UK solo exhibition of the artist’s work. In each one, Gyamfi blends his own image with a portrait of the transgressive, African American composer Julius Eastman (1940-1990).
Eastman was a musical prodigy, a radical classical composer and Grammy-nominated vocalist who combined minimalism with political provocation and elements of pop music. In 1976, Eastman proclaimed “what I am trying to achieve is to be what I am to the fullest: Black to the fullest, a musician to the fullest, a homosexual to the fullest”. His ouvre reflected his lived experience, and he regarded his compositions as ‘organic music’. Eastman built his scores through experimental techniques of repetition and accumulation followed by gradual disintegration. His music was nearly lost after his death, and it is only in recent years that Eastman’s legacy - and importance in the canon of music - has been revived.
Fixing Shadows - Julius and I is Gyamfi’s personal homage to the composer. Each image is unique, thousands of subtle variations in which their faces merge and reappear in new forms. He first came across a portrait of Eastman in 2018, which marked the artist’s prolonged encounter with the radical musician. Curious how people 'read' images, Gyamfi collected responses to his and Eastman's portraits via WhatsApp voice notes, which later influenced the cyanotypes. Gyamfi cuts across time, using one of photography’s earliest processes to mirror Eastman’s methodologies, allowing for happenstance as each image is repeated and reimagined. Hovering between autobiography and fiction, Fixing Shadows - Julius and I presents a constellation in which the photographic image is presented as a powerful yet ambiguous means of storytelling.