The photographic works of Alastair Whitton are preoccupied with ‘the mechanisms of memory and the mapping of geographies’. Through the lens he explores ‘the architecture of time and the poetics and politics of place’ attempting to illuminate the ‘space between moments’. His photographs celebrate the seemingly commonplace and are in effect ‘monuments to the dislocated and overlooked’. Of his creative practice the artist says, ‘I understand the process as a form of visual and cultural archaeology; a gathering and structuring of found fragments in an attempt to make sense of place and time and the recording of personal and collective histories.’
Alastair Whitton (born, Glasgow, UK) graduated with distinction from the Natal Technikon School of Fine Art in Durban, South Africa where he majored in sculpture and photography. As the overall top student in the Faculty of Art and Design he was awarded the Emma Smith International Scholarship and subsequently furthered his studies at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland.
To date he has presented three solo shows of his photographs: Barnard, Cape Town (2014); Brundyn & Gonsalves, Cape Town (2010) and David Krut Projects, Johannesburg (2009). His work has also been featured in curated group exhibitions at notable museums and institutions in South Africa and abroad. In the past decade these have included: Carreau du Temple, Paris (2017-2018); University of Johannesburg (2017); Pratt Institute, New York (2016); Museo Carlo Bilotti, Rome (2015); Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice (2015); The Center for Book Arts, New York (2014); Museo Casa dei Carraresi, Treviso (2014); Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon (2011); Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius (2011); IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town (2010); Fotomuseum, Antwerp (2010); Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg (2010); Musée National du Mali, Bamako (2009) and the University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria (2009).
He has participated in various international art fairs and festivals including amongst others the Cape Town Art Fair, Cape Town (2013-2019); AKAA: Also Known as Africa, Paris (2017-2018); Host: Editions, Cape Town (2015); FNB Joburg Art Fair, Johannesburg (2013-2014; 2009-2011); Head On Photo Festival, Sydney (2013); EAB Art Fair (Editions: Artists’ Books), New York (2009 & 2013) and Out of Africa Festival, Munich (1997).
The artist’s work is represented in the collections of the Durban Art Museum, Durban; University of South Africa, Pretoria; Durban Institute of Technology, Durban; South African Centre for Photography, Cape Town; Jack Ginsberg Collection / Ampersand Foundation, Johannesburg; Musée National du Mali, Bamako; Luciano Benetton Collection, Venice and the Aperture Foundation, New York.
Whitton lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.
A Foreign Land is the latest project by Whitton with an introduction by South African born Dutch artist Marlene Dumas and essay by celebrated author Ashraf Jamal.
My first reaction to these photographs was to shiver. Two sentences came to mind, by I know not whom – ‘Africa is a cold country where the sun always shines’ and another – ‘The touch of the devil is as cold as ice’. Marlene Dumas, Amsterdam, July 2019.
Conceived as anthropological ‘field notes’ situated within Cape Town, Whitton’s project is unreservedly about location. And yet, despite this affirmation of place, the images remain untethered, as though caught always between places, or moments, as ghostings of some other indefinable place and time. Ashraf Jamal, Cape Town, July 2019.