“I think it’s a beautiful idea that there are these people who have stopped and placed this little circle of glass in the same spot in front of these monuments that we’re constantly passing by without really looking at them. The buildings are the overt subject of The Universal Now but the real subject is time. We’re in this fluid river of time, which is unstoppable, but through photography you can have these frozen moments. When I started the series I was looking at the Lorenz Attractor and ideas about how time could be folded, about wormholes in time and how you could get loops and things could be folded back over one another.”
- Abigail Reynolds
Abigail Reynolds’s fascination with books and photographs printed in them is longstanding. She studied English literature at Oxford University before degrees at Chelsea College of Art and Goldsmiths. The artist’s practice regularly repurposes photographs that she excavates from the pages of books. Often recognisable and uncannily familiar, these images have been widely circulated and shared via the mass printing process.
Whether working in sculpture, film or an event, Reynolds’ practice is essentially collage. The Universal Now is an ongoing body of work which is created by splicing together photographs that depict the same place, taken from the same angle by different photographers often decades apart. The artist carefully and precisely cuts and folds the images onto themselves so that they create one new surface with both photographs being present in the given moment. This simultaneity is key to reading the work, Reynolds does not privilege one photograph, or one moment over another; both are present in the moment of looking. In so doing the artist explores photography’s relationship to time and its ability to collapse the past in the present.
Like an archaeologist the artist is interested in the passing of time, mining images she resurrects and transfers them to a new moment and context, one that is open to more complex readings and significance.
Abigail Reynolds lives in St Just and has a studio in St Ives, Cornwall. She gradated from Goldsmiths University, London in 2002 following degrees at Chelsea College of Art and Design, London and at St Catherine's College Oxford University, Oxford.
She is one of 47 artists selected for the British Art Show 9 touring the UK over 2021-2022. British Art Show is a landmark touring exhibition, widely recognised as the most important recurrent exhibition of contemporary art produced in the UK. Organised every five years, it brings the most innovative and exciting contemporary art produced in this country to four UK cities. In 2020 Reynolds was awarded a Paul Hamlyn Foundation award for visual art and her work was purchased by the Arts Council Collection. In March 2016 she was awarded the BMW Art Journey prize at Art Basel, to travel to lost libraries along the Silk Road. Her book 'Lost Libraries' documenting this journey was published by Hatje Cantz in 2018.
Her work is owned by the Government Art Collection, London, Yale University Art Gallery, Yale, the New York Public Library, New York and numerous private collections. Public institutions which have exhibited Reynolds’ work include Tate, St Ives, The Harris Museum Preston, PEER UK, London, Whitechapel Gallery London, Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen, Germany and more.