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Your Space Or Mine

Lottie Nadeau: Lockdown A Self Portrait

Lottie Nadeau is a recent photography graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, who’s ethereal work we were originally introduced to through our support of the Alt-D show. In a series of photographs that both enchant and unsettle Nadeau explores and represents the vicissitudes of life in lockdown. Ideally home is a refuge but for pretty much a whole year now our domestic environments have assumed a less than cosy ambience. It feels as if the walls are closing in. The more space shrinks the more likely we are to bump into ourselves. After all, for many people there’s no one else to bump into.

In ‘Lockdown A Self Portrait’ – the first of nine photographs on poster sites throughout Glasgow and Edinburgh: the latest iteration of BUILDHOLLYWOOD’s Your Space Or Mine artists’ street display project – we see five images of Nadeau variously posed in the same small corner of a cluttered room.

One figure absentmindedly strokes the leaf of a plant. A second perches on the back of a chair, her eyes cast down. Another squats on the seat, her knees drawn defensively up toward her chest. And below her, lying on the floor with her arms thrown behind her head is a fourth figure leaning with her head back on the same seat. Nadeau is pictured a fifth time reflected in a small circular mirror. The image trapped in the mirror is surrounded, dwarfed by the other figures confined to this tiny space. It’s hard to imagine a better picture of what it feels like to live with yourself and only yourself for such a long time. As if your own company is making you feel claustrophobic.

In another photograph hands reach to touch across plain carpeted floor, two shadows, fingers and an arm break into the frame. The third in the series titled ‘In The Shadows’ sees Nadeau this time kneeling on the floor, she’s reaching to touch the fingers of another arm shadow, now there are four shadowed arms reaching into the picture. In the fourth picture of the series Nadeau is photographed again alone but with the shadows of arms reaching into the frame. In ‘Sunday Shadows’ there are 6 silhouetted hands and arms. And in ‘Evening Light’, this time it’s Nadeau’s shadow surrounded by flesh and blood hands and arms seemingly reaching to touch her ethereal formless image. She has become blurred but now the intruding limbs are real.

In the photograph titled ‘2020’ neither Nadeau nor the limbs are shadows. Both palpably flesh. Her wearing a singlet, squatting on a chair, dishevelled and vulnerable. Her stare distracted as if she can’t see all the arms and hands surrounding her, tentacular and menacing.

Clearly Nadeau’s digitally manipulated self-portraits evince a surrealist sensibility. The works communicate how lockdown has impacted both our bodies and minds. Our human desire for touch, to reach out and touch other humans is compromised now, dangerous even. Nadeau’s uncanny constructions speak of loneliness and dislocation, a feeling of abjection bought on by physical confinement but also the crowding in of our own thoughts.

In the last three photographs of the series views outside feature more prominently. The subject is still captive, it’s almost as if beautiful vistas are taunting from outside even while the zombie arms are still advancing, haunting from within. In ‘Dreaming of Golden Hour’, the final work, Nadeau reaches her hand up towards sunlight bursting through trees. A tentative note of hope? Let’s hope so.

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