Exhibition visit: Marta Soul as part of the East meets West exhibition at The Waterhall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, supported by GRAIN


Marta Soul, Ama y bebe (2015-16) taken by Allan O’Neill (2016)

GRAIN is the arts organisation dedicated to supporting artists, photographers and curators in order to develop projects and opportunities in the Midlands region. Their most recent project is East meets West an exhibition featuring 16 emerging practitioners based in or who recently studied photography in the Midlands region.

The featured artists had responded to an open call to create projects with a theme of leisure and whilst there were various interesting photographers the images of UK based Spanish photographer Marta Soul stood out for myself personally to such an extent that I felt compelled to focus solely on her work.

Marta Soul’s new series Ama y bebe (2015-16) explores the part played by alcohol and drinking as she offers a deeper exploration of our personal relationships; drinking is often a central part of our celebratory rituals such as weddings or even as part of an informal toast over dinner to celebrate some event or to make a wish – perhaps for a couple to spend their future lives together in happiness.

Ama y bebe translated from Spanish means love and drink and Marta Soul’s use of text serves to relay a sense of irony clearly seen as people drink together in these constructed scenes. The artist implies that whilst the couples are drinking simultaneously the implication is that these acts of are a facade of togetherness and we are left to reflect on the true basis of their relationship and how they live their lives.

The man appears to be a prosperous, cultured if not a little dry-humoured but in essence an individual in midlife now enjoying the fruits of a successful career. His wife is young, attractive and according to the signified of her bright pink leisure pants is clearly leading a more frivolous and less intellectual existence no doubt completely financed by her husband.

I like how the artist through these intelligent and playful fictional images successfully subverts photography’s inherent quality to appear truthful and objective in order to explore and question contemporary western concerns of the state of our personal relationships within culturally conventional spaces.. The Ama y bebe series is typical of her previous work where she has explored other aspects of contemporary society, culture and identity, sexuality and appearance.


Marta Soul, taken from Together 

In another excellent series Together Marta Soul uses the financial problems of Southern Europe after 2008 and a belief that the crisis was caused by an excess of individualism in turn creating excessive risk-taking, self-interest and greed. Soul combines the models’ gaze with the planned physical spacing to re-create the spirit of individualism which comes at the expense of the wider interests of society. We are able to sense the air of narcissism and self-indulgence perfectly created by the artist in these scenes; human behaviour caused by the prevailing social environment of the time.

I found Marta Soul’s work intelligent and witty and I like the constructed nature of these colourful and aesthetically pleasing compositions. I am particularly interested in the interplay between what is real and what is fictional, possibly the most interesting aspect of photography and also the most relevant perspective when looking out into our contemporary social world.

To see more of the artist’s work please access her website at;




One thought on “Exhibition visit: Marta Soul as part of the East meets West exhibition at The Waterhall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, supported by GRAIN

  1. Pingback: Assignment 4 submission – “A picture is worth a thousand words” | allanoneillcontextnarrative

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