EJ Major: Try to do things we all can understand (4 stars)

Street Level, Glasgow, until Sat 10 May

EJ Major


Photographs capture nothing. Portraits are even more successful at framing the absence at the core of subjectivity and how this can be signified through the image. This is neither as simple as it first appears, nor is this observation an attack on the power of photography to still manage to say something about our plight as absent and de-centred subjects. EJ Major, knows this, and has exhibited printed, film and photographic works at Street Level, images that attempt to deal with ‘the failure of language and its suggestive possibility.’

This is the London-based artist’s first exhibition in Glasgow, and continues a successful run of shows in the space. As part of Glasgow international, the work on show definitely has international significance, in that it should still manage to touch the post-humanist ‘soul’ of every viewer, as well as being of a high enough aesthetic quality to be seen alongside many other of the worthies that the Gi will be presenting.

Major takes herself as subject matter in her work, even when the images are taken from films and other found sources. Little stories emerge when Major cuts, selects and arranges various images and words from her materials; unsaid dialogues between different characters in different films rise up. In the multiple monitor piece ‘Try to do things we all can understand’, a selection of frozen frames from blockbuster films are presented: Bette Davis in Now Voyager or John Malkovitch in Dangerous Liaisons, tragic and heroic characters that have coloured the artist’s life. These images, alongside snippets of dialogue, make for difficult reading. Love, as we all feared, is dead.

Elsewhere we find reproductions of sometimes gleeful, sometimes dark scenes from Major’s Brownie album, with terrifying sentences from Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying’ that the artist had underlined when a teenager, overprinted onto the images. This again is uncomfortable. The gallery text tells us that the artist would occasionally lose the ability to speak during her teenage years: darkness, loneliness and emptiness occupies the core.

Try To Do Things We All Can Understand

  • 4 stars

This first major solo show by London-based artist EJ Major meditates on love and loss through collage, prints, films and manipulated photography, demonstrating Major's international significance alongside the worthies of the current Gi programme, while also forging a strong connection with the viewer. 'Part of Glasgow…


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