O Friday 14 November at 7pm
7a Vyner Street, London E2
Since 1989 Lala Meredith Vula has been taking photographs of Albanian farmers’ haystacks. Her collection comprises photos from over 1000 haystacks, taken during the various seasons and documenting their various forms of completion. During this time she would also follow the haystack makers, spend time with farmers and find out as much as she could about haystacks.
The Haystack Series was originally shown during Next Phase in Wapping Pumping Station (1990) and at the Photographer’s Gallery (1991), coinciding with Claude Monet’s show at the Royal Academy. Tim Hamilton from the Guardian called her show ‘the alternative haystack show’!
Lala Meredith Vula (1990):
‘My starting point for the haystacks series was the question: “What is art?”
Having studied art for many years and visited many galleries throughout the world I soon found that the context of a work of art played a major part on where it is placed. For all my research, it took my returning home to discover the real significance of my search, it was in the fields of my former home town that I witnessed a way of life as old as the land itself where farmers went about their business, everything had its place. Within all this, I saw that somehow the farmers were unconsciously creating strange, sculptures that had the presence of modern sculptural pieces. Here part of my search was over. I had found the meeting place between my new world of art, being an artist, and my past, in the landscape of Kosova.’
Christine Frisinghelli about Lala, Camera Austria 2010
‘Lala Meredith Vula explores the question of the significance of tradition, origin and female identity in deferent ways in her photographic works: frequently we encounter a women dressed in traditional Albanian costume, posing at historic locations or in rural settings. Her experience as an international artist is only in apparent contradiction here to the photos of her home country side in Kosova, In which for many years she has photographed haystacks. In this way, she also raised the question as to the essence of art, the creation of form, and the experience of beauty: we may read these very individual figures as sculptures, but according to Lala Meredith Vula they are above all else a testimony to work in a farming community in which everything has its proper place, use and time.’
David Chandler about Lala’s work for the The Photographers’ Gallery
Lala Meredith-Vula’s compelling black and white photographs focus on the extraordinary architectural and sculptural forms of haystacks in Former Yugoslavia. The haystacks are built around precarious wooden frames, and as the hay is gradually removed for use, they take another life, reshaped into haunting and strangely anthropomorphic structures. In order to highlight these qualities Meredith-Vula’s approach is straightforward yet dramatic. Using a uniformly frontal viewpoint with a low camera angle, she has emphasised outline while disguising the haystacks’ true scale. In reality they vary in size, but in these photographs they invariably loom large and tower-like, dominating idyllic rural settings glimpsed only in the background. Meredith-Vula’s fascination with the seemingly endless variety of haystack forms, with their combinations of disfigured clumps of hay and fragile wooden poles, has led her to compile what amounts to a bizarre typology – one that brings to mind the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Like their gas tanks and blast furnaces Meredith-Vula’s haystacks are ‘anonymous sculptures’ and she documents them like works of art. But, they are also functional elements of a seasonal landscape, destined to disintegrate and disappear, and these photographs record a temporary beauty that seems to encapsulate the severe but rich character of a traditional way of life.
About Lala Meredith-Vula
Lala Meredith-Vula was born in Sarajevo in 1966, moving to England in 1970. She studied art at Trent Nottingham University and at Goldsmiths’ College in London where she graduated with a degree in 1988. This work was completed between 1988 and ’90 with the aid of a Yugoslavian Government Scholarship. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition in London.