The Velvet Arena [1994]
Text by David Chandler

‘Flash photography can create its own darkness. Black edges and margins tend to forma a border around its pictures, void like recesses of seemingly infinite space and depth rom which subjects are called in for questioning- for one shrill moment- before dissolving again back in to obscurity. In these terms flash offers us a visual metaphor for the way in which the city and specifically London, has been perceived and mythologised in C19th and C20th culture. A place whose overwhelming size and myriad complexities are often presented as an image of unfathomable darkness, one that can be penetrated only by the bright light of a detective who submits its details to a harsh and unremitting scrutiny.

On his arrival in London from the Midlands in 1990, David Moore was drawn to this strategy to negotiating the city. This was the fag end of the eighties, Thatcher’s decade, with the city reformed into a patchwork of baroque opulence and the abject.

Partly through a morbid fascination and partly through sound professional nous, Moore was attracted to one durable enclave in this unstable world. A dimly lit scene of private views, book launches and business parties: one of those closed social alliances, self protecting and exclusive, through which the city can reveal itself. Posing as a society photographer- an outsider on the inside, in neither public or private space- he began tentatively to record these events, uncertain as to where his project might lead. The Velvet Arena is the condensed result of over three years work, in which Moore’s attention became increasingly pared down and focused. In this final series of photographs, he presents himself, – with all the ambiguity of his initial attraction intact-as an estranged artist looking for clues. Light has revealed to him, in intense fragments, an environment of its own language of gesture and code of reference – its own secret mysteries. These are  intimate social spaces where deals are struck and confidences are broken, plush units of power and influence sequestered away from the unimaginable reaches of the city. Here, in these warm rooms and galleries, a trade in discreet insults can flourish. This is serious business, careers are at stake, yet rarely are voices raised. Rather, communication is enacted through the elaborate movements of a heavily ritualised game.

Moore’s picture’s dwell on the qualities of skin, especially in relation to the texture of clothes. Skin is translucent when it catches the light and here its veined and creased flesh tones ;loom out of darkness as if for medical inspection. Hands are particularly disembodied in this respect and are a leitmotif of Moore’s series. They are important signs of the sensual, of touch, of affection, collusion and betrayal. In one picture a hand is clasped around the back of a brown leather jacket. The way it is lodged there , spotted by Moore’s flash gently pulling down the folds of leather, hints at a clinging tension,while the worn patch on the jacket around it suggest that this is after all, a gesture of habit. In another similiarly minimal picture a male hand rests idly alongside the bulk of a suited figure. Again flesh is palpable and we sense a latent power- dormant but threatening- in the lay of the hand, the cut of the cloth.’

The Velvet Arena was my first solo exhibition, at The Photographers’ Gallery, London in November 1994.