Light Lines: The Architectural Photographs of Hélène Binet ★★★★ Royal Academy of Arts | Oct 23, 2021 - Jan 23, 2022


Light Lines: The Architectural Photographs of Hélène Binet is the latest beguiling exhibition in the Sackler Wing at the Royal Academy of Arts. Binet is clearly enthralled by Junichiro Tanizaki's quotation: “We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and darkness that one thing against another creates.” Many of the photographs show the striking interplay of these shadows and light which was, of course, something which influenced the designs of Le Corbusier and Zaha Hadid among others. Brutalist architecture suits her photographic style perfectly: the sharp lines and plain concrete creating wonderful contrasts. Binet has been said to think of her work as similar to a musician interpreting a composer's score – respectful to the original intention but with an individual slant. To add a little variation to twentieth century buildings, there are some beautiful photographs of birch trees against brickwork as well as serene views of Nicholas Hawksmoor's Christ Church Spitalfields. Working almost exclusively in black and white, and eschewing modern digital techniques, Binet avoids clichés and shows us, for example, some of the work of the Danish architect Jørn Utzon which isn't the Sydney Opera House. For us, one of the most interesting photographs shows the 1950s remodelling by Dimitris Pikionis of a simple stone pathway at the Acropolis in Athens – such beautiful textures and patterns. John Cage's comment seems to us entirely apposite: “There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time.”

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Image: Hélène Binet, Zaha Hadid, Glasgow Riverside Museum of Transport, United Kingdom, 2010. Courtesy Ammann Gallery, Cologne. © Hélène Binet.

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