Oliver Frank Chanarin: A Perfect Sentence

26 Jan-23 Mar 2024
PV 25 Jan 2024, 6-8pm

Plymouth PL1 3NY


A Perfect Sentence explores the shifting terrain of documentary photography: our drive for attention, the complexity of being seen and our anxiety of being overlooked. Commissioned and produced by Forma with eight partners, A Perfect Sentence is Oliver Frank Chanarin’s first UK solo exhibition and will see multiple presentations across the country, public acquisitions, a digital platform and a publication. 

This new iteration of A Perfect Sentence at KARST interrogates the photographic image in the age of the algorithm. At the centre of this installation are two machines made by the artist in collaboration with Tom Cecil and Ruairi Glynn. They continuously hang and rehang framed photographs that are stored in stacks on the gallery floor. Appropriating the language of automation, the machines handle the images according to an inscrutable logic; identifying, sorting, displaying, juxtaposing and storing photographs for the duration of the exhibition. 

The archive of images on display, only ever partially seen at any one time, was produced by Chanarin last year while travelling across the United Kingdom. Often finding himself on the margins – from suburban fetish groups, to carnival troupes in community halls, to gender activists protesting in the streets – his analogue camera became a tool for social exchange. Collaborative photoshoots gave way to chance encounters with strangers and friends, missteps and wilful attempts at getting lost in the world. The resulting photographs capture a subjective and intimate record of a nation in transition. 

Over 12 months, Chanarin produced over 3000 colour negatives portraying encounters with hundreds of participants, from which he hand-printed unique, C-type prints in the darkroom. Many of the artworks are annotated with handwritten notes on cropping and colour filtration or show gradients of exposure. These interventions on the surface of the images point to a printing process in development, and allude to the mercurial nature of identity and the subjectivity inherent in image making. 

Oliver Frank Chanarin has built an international reputation for pushing the boundaries of photography, both conceptually and in its practice. This new commission, through its utilisation of analogue hand-printed medium format photography and bespoke robotic machines question the nature and role of photography. A Perfect Sentence asks us to consider who controls our image; how does one capture attention; and who do we see in our hyperconnected, image-prolific digital world? 

A Perfect Sentence was commissioned and produced with Forma in partnership with 8 institutions with support from Arts Council England and Outset Contemporary Art Fund, and an Acquisition Commission grant from Art Fund. In addition, National Lottery through Arts Council Wales, Kick The Dust and City of London have supported the productions in Wales, Great Yarmouth and London respectively.


Join us on Thursday 25 January for Oliver Frank Chanarin in conversation at 5.15pm and our A Perfect Sentence opening event from 6-8pm. The exhibition will be on view until Saturday 23 March (Wed-Sat, 11am-5pm).

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