Art Review: Olivo Barbieri @ Ronchini Gallery

Olivo Barbieri is an Italian photographer who has become known for his helicopter shots of urban spaces and this exhibition presents a collection of overhead images of well known London landmarks. It’s amazing what’s visible from an elevated position, such as the tired worker who is lying down and soaking up some sun in a secluded patch of grass near Admiralty Arch.

Where Barbieri differentiates himself from other photographers is his careful manipulation of the lighting and colour in his works to creates pieces which will make visitors question whether they are single shots or collages, photographs or paintings. This sense of ambiguity grows with further exploration of each of these large scale works.

A shot of people relaxing in Hyde Park looks both real and distorted at the same time. The details and accurate shadows appear to be in sync but your eyes will refuse to believe it. Barbieri’s post-shot editing ensures that each individual is in focus at the same time and this makes them pop up as if they are three dimensional. It’s a bizarre sensation that can only be truly explained by experiencing it.

There are also monochrome works on display, where St. Paul’s has been washed out so it’s still clearly visible but has taken on a ghostly appearance. It reminded us of the time the artist Christo wrapped the Reichstag in plastic.

Our favourite work has to be the shot of Tower Bridge where the water appears to have a viscosity akin to crude oil as a boat tears through it. It’s a completely new take on the Thames and makes it look threatening.

In this exhibition Barbieri shows us that he is a master of photo manipulation and presents London in his own unique light.

Olivo Barbieri: site specific London 2012 is on display at Ronchini Gallery, 22 Dering St, W1S 1AN until 10 January. Entrance is free.

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