‘These fantastical Horses look like My Little Ponies on Mars’ – Sam Anderson, The New York Times Magazine.
‘He shines improbably glorious, cosmic lights on the horses, using colours like those associated with transformative mood experiences such as music and dance, drug use, or the bright sunlight that falls through the stained-glass window of cathedrals.’ Neal Brown
Gareth McConnell’s new book – The Horses – is a compelling combination of starkly understated title and kaleidoscopic contents, which manages to be steeped in meaning and mystery, yet with almost no text.
Across a number of book and photography projects, McConnell has brought a humane, quizzical eye to people he has encountered: whether they be ‘morning-after’ Ibiza ravers or Northern Irish marching bands. Yet, while his photographic approach is distinct and visually intense, the character, doubts, fears and hopes of his subjects always shine forth.
In 2022, McConnell turned his camera towards that most unknowable of subjects, the horse, and has produced a provocative collection of photographs, which somehow – appear to make the horse seem even more remarkable and mysterious then before.
McConnell travelled to Iceland, a country where the horse is as symbolic to the national landscape as waterfalls or glaciers. Photographs of the horses were taken both outdoors and indoor and, with vivid flashes of colour, McConnell manages to convey the disparate characters of these animals – or at least as close as we can get. The work is wild, expressive, restful, and powerful, perfectly reflecting the animals’ variety. It is clear that McConnell was led by the horses in how he depicted them, rather than the other way round.
The story unfolds without text, the large format colour saturated images drawing you into the intimate world of these horses, while never feeling invasive, always sensitive.
Other themes come to mind. As Iceland appears to be potentially one of the safest places to live as conflicts explode globally, its culture, steeped in mysticism, seems ever more enticing. The uncanny beauty of these horses in this particular setting seem to offer solace in unnerving times.
The combination of nature and struggle have long been a theme of artists for centuries from Constable, Peter Kennard and Jeremy Deller. The Horses is perhaps the latest chapter to look at the promise and the threat of our natural world.
Ultimately, however, this is not a dark journey but a wild, celebratory ride, feeling like a continuation of previous McConnell books such as Sex, Drugs & Magick, Close Your Eyes, The Dream Meadow, The People Deserve Beauty / Sports Banger