Although at first you can’t quite tell why, there is something different about Stephen Tobin’s prints. These aluminium-printed pieces glisten in reaction to the natural light that floods in upon them, but they have a cold, harsh finish to them that looks like slate or stone. The way they reflect light gives them a hologram-like quality, shifting subtly as you walk past them. The exhibition includes images of landscape, cityscape, portraiture, drama and the natural world - a real mixture. His bleak seaside prints in particular are beautiful, benefitting perhaps most from this metallic printing technique; the sky over the sea is pure metal and a lone bird swoops through its fascinating texture.
Portraits also prove arresting, especially those of old men and women. Tobin’s fascination with the art of texture is betrayed in the faces of his elderly sitters. Crisp and sharp, these pictures show every hair, wrinkle and fold in perfect detail. In similar fashion, his some of his city prints present the bricks of the Colosseum as rough and dry, and its layered ruins create a strange recession, tricking the eye. Elsewhere, action shots of an eagle taking off from lush green trees are magical. The detail of the features, the way Tobin has captured the cold, proud eyes and the wings caught in muscular tension is beautiful.
This exhibition is far from perfect, however. Firstly, three prints in particular manage to completely undermine the subtlety of approach established by others. These cheesy photographs are painfully jarring when placed next to his far more interesting works, using a hackneyed technique of colour injection upon black and white backgrounds; in one, for example, a bunch of apples is printed in green and red, but the surrounding foliage is black and white. These prints look cheap and commercial next to his other works, and it’s disappointing that they made the cut. On top of this, the exhibition as a whole is rather disjointed; Tobin would have done better to work from a theme rather than randomly selecting a few from each genre, especially in a space that is so small. These issues injure what would have otherwise been a wonderful exhibition of Tobin’s photographic prints which are innovative, interesting and really quite beautiful in their bleakness.