Philip Braham: Falling Shadows in Arcadia

Finlay Room, RSA Lower Galleries

Free entry


Philip Braham is the 2009 winner of The Morton Award ( £5,000) for lens based work. For the past few years, Philip has been documenting aspects of the Scottish landscape in which the human subject is implicit yet distant. The award funded his most recent project, Falling Shadows in Arcadia, that has seen Philip documenting sites around Scotland used for illicit outdoor sexual practices, not as voyeur, but rather a 'distant observer'. He intends the works to have a filmic and disquieting quality, similar to the atmosphere of David Lynch's Twin Peaks, or the tableau photographs of Gregory Crewdson.


"In Poussin's painting 'Et in Arcadia Ego' a shepherd points to this inscription on a gravestone. The Latin phrase is translated as "Even in Arcadia, death is present" and the painting can be understood as a 'memento mori', a reminder of our mortality. Beneath the pointing finger a shadow falls, touching the fingertip of the shepherd. This shadow is the harbinger of death that will inevitably follow, even in the idyll of Arcadia.


The series of photographs that I have produced for the RSA Morton Award 2010 takes the theme of the brevity of our being, measured against the enduring nature of the landscape. Through exceptionally long exposures, the figures in these images are recorded as ghosts that seem absorbed in a strange and uncomfortable narrative, while the landscape is sharp and faithfully described.


The images are thus a reminder of our mortality, but the 'falling shadows' are also a reference to a moral decline in our less than idyllic society. The landscapes are notorious 'dogging' sites in Scotland, while the narratives point to events that have happened there at prior times: the double murders in Templeton Woods, or a rape in Roslin Glen etc. However, these are not depicted literally, and the images are given titles that refer to classical biblical themes instead. Meaning moves away from the specific towards the poetic."

Philip Braham, March 2010


Philip will also be exhibiting the lyrically powerful series "Suicide Notes"that won him the RSA Morton Award in 2009. The artist visited sites of reported suicides that had taken place between March 2008 and June 2009, and the images stand as a private memorial to the victims who had chosen to take their lives at these places. For more information about this series, please click here.


Coinciding with this solo exhibition at the RSA, Philip will also be exhibiting his paintings as part of a group exhibition at The Union Gallery on Broughton Street, Edinburgh. Please click here to find out more.