Welcoming safety and a bigger sense of the emptiness beyond
A Portsmouth wedding photographer by day, 25-year old graduate Andrew Paul Hayward could be forgiven for engaging in a little moonlighting to indulge his true artistic interests – shooting remote petrol stations by night. The fascination was born during a family holiday in Devon when, from the back of the car, he became absorbed by their appearance out of and disappearance back into the night. The memory became the inspiration for his whole degree show.
‘Seeing petrol stations along a dark road made me think of their welcoming safety and the bigger sense of the emptiness beyond them; they also feel like a non-place unless you’re actually there,’ thinks Hayward, who spent weeks with his 5x4 large format camera wandering along A-roads in the dead of night to produce the images for his prosaically-entitled show ‘A-road petrol stations at night’, at Portsmouth’s aspex gallery.
Drawing from influences like Candida Höfer, Andreas Gursky and the Bechers, the result is a set of compelling nocturnal images that have an Edward Hopper-like sense of isolation. They also have a slightly unsettling, conflicted quality to them, counter pointing the apparent illuminated safety with an emptiness made evident by those same bright lights. But there’s more. Despite their apparent stasis, there’s an energy to the photos that suggests Zaha Hadid’s first Malevich-like designs, her coloured geometries leaping out from the black of the background. Hayward meanwhile cites the legacy of another artist as his inspiration. ‘Pop artist Ed Ruscha’s 1963 project ’Twentysix gasoline stations’ got me thinking about what they looked like then and how different they look now,’ says Hayward. ‘Doing this project made me wonder what they’ll look like in another 50 years.’
‘A-road petrol stations at night’ is showing at Portsmouth’s aspex gallery until October 18