© Hannah Collins. All Rights Reserved, DACS. 2023.


Hannah Collins (1956 – )


143.8 X 189.2 CM
Accession number


Hannah Collins went to live in Barcelona in 1989, and this photograph, one of the first images she made there, is alive to the light of the place. ‘When I first went to Barcelona’, she explains, ‘the darkness of the interior spaces and lack of greys was confusing and it took me about six months to begin to make works.’[1] A starting point was the things she found in the street. By removing them from their original context and photographing them in the studio she was exploring ‘absent spaces’, with the heightened sensitivity, perhaps, of a newcomer. In Untitled (basket with glass) she brings together unconnected elements, to picture a hybrid object, removed from function. Collins found the wastepaper basket in a flea market, and spotted the glass It is suspended, so the pendants catch the light against the black background, mimicking their former life as a chandelier. Collins has embellished the throw-away to create something new, and strange, not unlike a dreamcatcher.

The photograph is, in part, a tonal exercise: ‘To solve the problem of there being no medium tones I looked to Spanish classical still lives that came out of black or darkness – which is very much the relationship of interiors to exteriors in Spain. The other works from this period are also related to images with historical painting references, eggs, hair, paper, food...’ But through an interest in the history of Spanish painting, Collins unites seemingly disconnected elements on a broader level: she situates contemporary photography on the walls of art history. By mounting the print on a huge canvas, Collins makes the historical associations of painting available to the camera. By bringing attention to the surface – not a conventional issue in photography – Collins is engaging with the modernist preoccupation with materiality. Untitled (basket with glass) shows the bin hanging at an angle, with the pendants pointing straight down, in contrast to the delicate moiré pattern of the wire mesh; underneath, the way the canvas hangs, casting its own shadows, is equally an integral part of the viewing experience. The canvas sizes up to the viewer’s body; its scale facilitates the piece’s integration into the interior in which it is viewed. In earlier work, Collins presented landscapes and interiors on a similarly grand scale. In desert vistas and interiors constructed from cardboard the interest in absence is emphasised by the simplicity of the compositions and the choice of black and white film. Thin Protective Coverings (1986) for example, is a black and white photograph mounted, like the present piece, on a huge canvas. It shows a plane of flattened cardboard boxes. Cardboard, as the throw-away stuff of last-ditch shelters, has emotive associations, but Collins has repositioned the boxes according to an aesthetic plan. Flat all-over, the cardboard layout is variegated in tone and shadow. Collins insists on drawing attention to the surface, to a degree that is almost metaphorical.

[1] Hannah Collins, 4 March 2011.