Home is Not a Place - Johny Pitts
Graves Gallery, Sheffield
11th August - 24th December ‘22
The ‘What’s on’ guide has introduced the exhibition with a short blurb “What is Black Britain? In 2021, Sheffield-born photographer and writer, Johny Pitts, joined by poet Roger Robinson, followed the British coast in search of an answer... there was further explanation, but personally, I like to go along without any preconceptions.
Often exhibitions and installations are a dry affair, all hushed voices, tilted heads sporting pensive faces whilst chins are stroked in quiet contemplation. An uneasy experience that diminishes the impact and enjoyment of the work on show.
Home is Not a Place is the warmest, most welcoming exhibition I’ve been to in Sheffield.
You are drawn immediately to what can only be described as a spectacular table, created by Johny's sister, the artist Chantal Pitts, and it's worthy of attention and floor level exploration - which may perturb other gallery goers - so go early and hope you have the place to yourself. A radio is playing, there are photo albums to pour through, it’s a very engaging, natural feeling place to be. Make your way through the beaded curtains into the second part, and there, in the dimmed lights is a recreation of the Pitts living room, I spend far longer than I expected, sinking into a sofa, watching the television, reading the spines of VHS tapes and feeling a long way in time and space from the gallery I know I’m in.
If you’ve ever waited downstairs for a friend, you’ll know the feeling of being surrounded by someone else's space, as you look around and quietly explore you gain an understanding of what has formed them into the people they are. Scanning the photos on the walls and shelves you’ll have an almost voyeuristic glimpse into a life you are only one part of. And that is what makes this exhibition so effective and engaging, as you move around quietly, yes there are portraits but they don’t feel staged. These are images of people and places that you can feel a connection to, rather than representations of concepts. As a visitor I found myself so absorbed by the presentation and experience that I would swear nobody else had been there, yet when I moved on, into the glare of the next exhibit, I had to politely duck and weave through the groups of people I simply hadn’t noticed. I can’t think of a reason not to recommend this exhibit to people, it’s beautifully executed and leaves a lasting impact.
Short movie featuring Johny Pitts discussing his work