Pop Up Pink (Part 1)

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Tuesday night was the Pop Up exhibition of Pink inspired by and a result of the ‘Pink’ talk for Colour Studio Northumbria (http://colourstudionorthumbria.weebly.com/). These are weekly conversations mostly led by fellow course mate Rebecca Gavigan. Having led one this week myself on the topic of ‘Time’, I am even more in awe of how she puts them together – especially on a weekly basis with everything else we have to contend with as final year students. Other students and tutors have also led talks  and it’s a really interesting mix of topics that are discussed including things like laughter, material, chance, etc.

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So it was really exciting to see one of the talks mould and shape an exhibition. One of the primary focuses of the exhibition was the motif of ‘shifts’ due to the development of our conversation during the Pink Talk. We covered and shifted across so many different topics that it seemed appropriate to incorporate this aspect into the exhibition. Whilst researching in preparation of the talk I kind of hit a wall. As I have an incredibly girly girl sister, it is difficult for me to look at pink in a way that surpasses my sister’s excessive use of it! I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I love that when I think of her a colour instantly springs to mind, I think that’s a beautiful way to visualise someone you love. However, it did mean I had to try really hard to distance myself from those associations in an attempt to research more broadly.

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‘Transfer’, Sue Spark, Highlighter and oil on paper, 2016

The Pink Talk was mainly questioning the ‘art pink’ that is so present in the art world today. If you look at art thinking about pink you really do start to notice it’s presence everywhere. Whether it’s a pastel pink, a funky neon pink, or a muted dirty pink; all sorts of variations can be found in different places and across artistic practices. Even in catalogues and publications, pink really is the ‘in’ thing! I can’t tell whether or not I’m surprised it has become a trend, I suppose given the conventional associations of the colour all of these interpretations are an attempt to redefine what pink can be. 

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‘Untitled Slants’, Charles Danby, Acrylic, oil, pencil, ink, magazine, highlighter, paper, linen, 2008-16

What I love most about the Colour Talks is they take something simple and expands it into realms you had never even considered. In my reading of pink I was thinking about gender, feminine elements, flesh – those kind of associations. Of course in the talk we did discuss these. It turns out pink was historically more of a boy’s colour, as it is a diluted version of red which of course symbolises male strength. This is something I would never have guessed myself given all the pink baby girls clothing we are constantly bombarded with! The talk also covered things such as pink in the natural environment and how this colour  can be really striking in that context. The discussion had so many components to it that I don’t think I will ever look at pink in the same way again!

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‘Jawbone’, Projection, Matt Young and Nikki Lawson, 2016

It was interesting how for the most part, those of us who exhibited a work were drawn to the use of a more high frequency pink. This was completely accidental as nobody had discussed the exact tone they would be using in their piece prior to exhibiting. We only realised once all the works were placed in the room. It therefore perfectly demonstrated exactly what we all felt was ‘art pink’. 

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‘Oh Sorry’, Rebecca Gavigan, PVC and highlighter, 2016

We were also all free to choose what we submitted in terms of media, so there was a good range as a result. The mix included installations, video, paintings, drawings, work in situ – there was a bit of everything. Eclectic textures were present too which evoked tactile sensations. Each work had been carefully placed and hung in order to allow the eye to travel across each piece. Placement was key to how the pieces were all viewed and navigated so I found having work on the floor as well as the wall added a dynamism to it all. It was curated in a day and although this was a very brief time period, it was long enough to let me see the thought and process that goes into curating. Something that I currently have little experience of!

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‘No Sexual Connotations Intended’, Samuel Johnson, Timber, mesh voile, gloss, oil and iridescent paint on canvas, 2016

Following this exhibition however I am intrigued by the idea of curating. There’s a responsibility to assembling works effectively; not only to the pieces themselves, but also to the artists who made them. I’ve never done it before but having seen how thoroughly Rebecca considered the hanging of each work, I feel it could be a really exciting thing to try!

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Close up of ‘Rizzo’, Camilla Irvine-Fortescue, Acrylic on canvas, 2016

Jim Lambie at GoMA

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‘Forever Changes’, Jim Lambie

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As well as visiting Kelvingrove at the weekend, we also visited the Gallery of Modern Art – or as it’s known in art slang – GoMA. There was an interesting collection of work on display, some that appealed to me, some that did not. The mix included well known art world names such as Karla Black, David Shrigley, Claire Barclay and of course Jim Lambie to name but a few. Yet a name is not everything as I felt some pieces really did not belong or were misplaced within this gallery setting. Particularly when set against the backdrop of another work. Frankly, anything alongside this exciting piece by Lambie took a backseat for me! I have a real thing for colour at the moment. I don’t know if it’s all the Colour Talks I’ve been attending in uni which are led by my friend and course mate, or if it’s just that I haven’t properly painted in so long I’m starting to yearn for physical colour again. Probably a mix of the two.

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Either way, the colour and apparent clumsiness of this piece instantly appealed to me. What appears as a cluttered and chaotic arrangement of useless half-chairs, is in fact a highly considered and contemplated arrangement. As Eva Hesse would say, “it’s chaos structured as non-chaos”. It’s almost like something Alice would find in Wonderland. There is no sense of guidance for the eye to travel over, it is merely left to its own devices in registering and comprehending the work.

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I thought the mirrored handbags were a fantastic addition to what was already a very exciting work. I have not researched the work, but I wonder if they are a commentary on our commercial and self-absorbed society. After all, women (and men) spend hundreds on an item used simply to carry other items. Then there is the addition of mosaic mirrors which allow us as viewers to view our own reflections. I am simply contemplating here but this was my interpretation of the piece. I may be entirely wrong and be taking far too obvious a reading from it. Either way however, Lambie is an artist I will definitely be looking into more following this absorbing experience!

B. Wurtz at Baltic

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Contemporary art is often controversial in it’s reception. Some people love it, some people hate it. Some people think their children could have done it. Other’s say their child didn’t do it and the artist beat them to it! This artwork is the perfect example of that retort. Wurtz’s practice revolves around taking a simple everyday object and turning it into something beautiful. In this case, he used food trays and painted the shapes on the bottom of them in different colours of acrylic. First off, I had never even noticed there were so many shapes to the bases of these trays. Second off, this is genius!

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It is such an incredibly simple thing but surprisingly elegant too. Who would have thought food trays could look this good?! And together in this form of display they look absolutely brilliant! Walking into the room I half gasped in amazement. Initially I couldn’t figure out what the objects were, but on closer inspection I was stunned to realise it was merely food trays! 

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The way they are all arranged is reminiscent of the way portraits are hung in an old historical castle. They have that sophisticated clustered vibe going on. The colours themselves are very rich and bold, almost like jewels. What Wurtz has succeeded in doing is elevating the most simple commonplace object into an art object. Marcel Duchamp’s urinal here we go again!

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I think what’s so lovely about this is though is the air of playfulness! It’s not trying to be anything fancy or anything that it’s not. It is purely an adaption of a simple material that is undergoing a transformation into something more beautiful. It’s almost like Wurst is the fairy godmother to house hold materials! He does it with other bits and pieces such as plastic bags and shoe laces but the one that really caught my eye was what I call his photographic tree:

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They are little photographic strips hung delicately in this form. Again, so basic but so clever. The best part about all this is it really shows that you don’t need lots of money to make art. Anyone can do it, it’s just about using your imagination and experimenting to see what happens!

Brian Griffiths: ‘BILL MURRAY: A Story of Distance, Size and Sincerity

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So this was also at Baltic when I visited. I saw it last time I was there but never got round to writing about it. I think this is because I had so many people say to me “have you seen that Bill Murray exhibition at Baltic?” and so by the time I eventually did get round to seeing it, I was already slightly  sick of it! Even after all they’d said, this was not what I  expected! I don’t really know what I was expecting…cardboard cut outs of him maybe? Or some all singing all dancing video installation? Satellite-like installations and little dolls houses were therefore quite a surprise! 

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As was the childlike aesthetic which was particularly evident in the painted house piece. The whole exhibition had this childhood nostalgia to it, I think because dolls houses were present. They were lit from the inside and invited you in. They felt very homey in a way but simultaneously distant, as if they were pushing and pulling you into and away from them. Teasing you. Become a part of it or leave it alone? It was quite exciting peeping in not knowing what you’d see. In most cases it was shells from the ocean which I really liked, as they contrasted nicely with the wooden construction of the pieces. 

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As well as childhood nostalgia, I also felt there was a certain melancholy to it all. I don’t know if that’s because the space felt so big and silent for these sculptures. Although they are fairly sizable in themselves, they are the smallest structures I’ve ever seen on this floor of the Baltic. The silence just seemed so loud because of this, it was almost eerie. Haunting. Like you weren’t meant to be there but of course that’s a contradiction given it’s a gallery where the sole purpose is to view art.

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Most pieces were quite precariously balanced which I think also added to the child-like element. It kind of made me want to get some bits and pieces of my own and start adding to the work! Or bring in some of my own houses to fill out the space and create more liveliness! Bring in one of my old dolls houses. Oooh wow, imagine an exhibition where everyone contributed their old dolls house! In a way it would be kind of creepy. Or maybe that’s just me, sometimes stuff like this freaks me out! 

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I wonder what it’s like to be Bill Murray and have an exhibition  focused on you…Must be truly bizarre – that is, if he even knows about it!

 

Hajra Waheed

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So I had a wee trip down to The Baltic this afternoon thinking there wouldn’t be anything new on given how often I go. But I fancied a walk and some fresh air before the gym so decided to go anyway. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Hajra Waheed’s exhibition. Waheed’s work explores the increasing militarization of the sky and how satellite surveillance is becoming more commonplace in our everyday. She works in mixed media ranging from collage to video installation. Her works include archive fragments and field notes which bring an interesting dimension to the artwork as it feels so much more intense with those elements in it. To me that is, maybe to science orientated people it’s more of a natural dialect. 

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I am often fascinated when an artistic practice blends itself with science as that is a theme that differs so greatly from my own. Science and technology are fascinating to me, mostly I think because I have no knowledge about them. To me they are merely the great unknown! Yet strangely in this case I have no urge to make this unknown known, it’s almost as if I prefer it all being a mystery so that I can continue to appreciate it from the outside. Or maybe my brain is already too full with arty stuff, which is probably more accurate if I’m being completely honest!

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What really struck me about this exhibition was the layout; you could tell how much thought had been put into this aspect. There were divides within the space so that some work was hidden when you first entered, there was a separate room and then a little alcove in the wall. There were waist high plinths and then plinths that were just above ground level – the exhibition really forced your eye to travel and it was fantastic! It felt almost like a journey through the artwork. There was also sound playing across the entirety of the room which I think was the sound of materials scraping against the floor as they were being moved. I may be wrong as it was kind of obscure and difficult to pinpoint but given the satellite material laid out on the low-lying plinth, it did suggest the sounds were depicting the movement of these items. If not then I am intrigued by what the sound was capturing; in a way it is this ambiguity that makes it all the more interesting. 

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My photographs sadly, do not justify the exhibition. Because I didn’t think there was a new one on, I just chucked my basic little camera into my bag last minute. Speaking to a member of the Baltic crew, he said Waheed is very particular about how her exhibitions are documented given the thought and time she puts into layout. So she would probably hate me right now with these awful snapshots of her work. They do give you an idea however of the space. The artwork itself did not trigger much response from me I think because I was too fascinated by the arrangement of it all. I particularly liked how she’d arranged all her framed works, it had a satisfying regimental quality to it (photo above). 

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I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed an exhibition where the lighting has made such an impression on me. It was both dramatic and subtle at the same time. There was kind of a blue hue throughout the entire space which created a real sense of calm despite the quite intense subject matter. Waheed grew up on the gated Aramco compound of Saudi Arabia where I myself spent some time when I was growing up. It was interesting looking at her work once I found this out as there are some controversial explorations carried out which I think are heightened by the fact she had lived in Saudi and is not simply an artist observing from the outset. Controversial and highly political and not something I am really wanting to get into given my experiences.

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On the whole I think this was a very successful exhibition. The artwork itself was not exactly to my taste and doesn’t make me want to run off and research her. However the thought and skilled arrangement of it all does. You can tell this is an artist who thinks about the bigger picture when making artwork and I think that’s really important to being successful in today’s art world. 

INTERFUSE

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A week ago today I attended INTERFUSE, an exhibition held by fellow students in the Gallery North Project Space. Art students host exhibitions all the time, but what was special about this one was the fact that it blended the work of both Northumbria and Newcastle University students together. To my knowledge this has never been done before, which is a shame as it seems like such a waste of two such creative communities that are right on each other’s door step. At the same time however it made INTERFUSE all the more exciting.

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As if the concept of a collaboration wasn’t exciting enough, the content of the exhibition was even more so! It was really dynamic, a blend of all sorts of mediums ranging from audio, installation, performance, video, painting – you name it, it was all there. It was a really strong combination of works, probably one of the strongest and most interesting blends I have seen in a very long time. 

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One of the key elements that made INTERFUSE so effective was audience participation. You had pieces like the one above which people were welcome to crawl into (and trust me we did, we had quite a party in there!) Then you had ones like the one below which was so temptingly tactile you had to remind yourself touching artwork is not acceptable!

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Sadly I did not see the performance piece, it drew such a big crowd that I literally could not leave the little room with the tent installation (not that I’m complaining, any extra time I get to spend in the company of fairylights is absolutely fine by me!)

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When I say this exhibition had everything, I am not lying. The above was definitely the funkiest piece, it was like walking into a mini disco! Music was blaring, lights were flashing, colours were going crazy. I’m not usually one for conventional club music but in this instance I was entirely fine with it! Maybe if we set up some hip arty club consisting of installations like this I wouldn’t feel the need to drown my sorrows over the terrible music that gets played in most places!

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In contrast to the energetic club-like room, you had pieces like this. The moment you put headphones on you are choosing to shut out the world and immerse yourself entirely in the piece. And I really like that element; in a way it almost gives the work total control over you which I think is very interesting. Sound is definitely something I want to look into working with, especially given the fact my video works really aren’t functioning for me, yet the audio in them all somehow still appeals. 

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Another thing that I thought made INTERFUSE such a strong exhibition were the details; it was just the simplest things such as tape outlines on the floor, but it just brought everything together and really demonstrated the thought and time that had gone into all this.

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It was probably one of my favourite exhibitions so far this year. It is the first of four and let me tell you, I will definitely be going to the next one. I have no idea what to expect next time, as I really don’t know how they are going to top this one. We’ll just have to wait and see!

Auction Preview Night

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So last night was our Preview Night in preparation of our Fine Art Auction next Tuesday. One week to go (drum roll please!) The team did a brilliant job of putting the work on display. Having been one of the people to run around collecting multiple artworks from all over the place I had kind of lost sight of them all as pieces themselves. Seeing them all arranged so beautifully brought back the ability to view them as artwork and not just number five on my list for collection! It’s strange how putting work in a certain setting can completely transform your view of things. I think that’s why taking your work out of your studio is such an important moment, you really get an idea of how it functi0ns without the safety net of a studio.

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I think what I’m most pleased about in terms of the work we had on display last night and in our Auction is the variety. It perfectly demonstrates the expressive abilities of art.

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I was really impressed with the arrangement of things, it was so well thought out. Items leaning against the wall creating interesting shadows, easels all lined up like soldiers, plinths in the centre of the room commanding the space, etc. Makes me feel like I really need to step up and start thinking more about the display and presentation of my work. Definitely not a strong point of mine…

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We have some really strong pieces as well. The above piece, ‘Andria’, is definitely one that’s going to cause some conflict on the night I reckon. This is just a work that says straight out “you need me in your life”. Yes I do you beauty! This is just one of many really strong works. With less than one week to go, feel free to view them at:

http://nuartauction.tumblr.com/

Hope Stebbing and Oliver Perry: ‘Your World Tomorrow’

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There have already been some photographs of this exhibition up on my blog, but that was for my post about the preview night. This is more about Hope Stebbing and Oliver Perry’s artwork itself. Given the connotations this work carries through the partnership with the Great North Run and the consequent success of Stebbing and Perry, I feel like I am talking about something huge. Something very impressive to the point that I am going to shy away from all the bravado to instead focus on their work in a gallery setting. My happy place. It was unlike any work I’d previously seen in the University Gallery. Normally it’s more along the lines of Norman Cornish style art. So this felt like a statement. Literally! The words form ‘onward”together”as one’. They are bold and they are solid. Yet what I love is the fragility of the welded stands that hold them up. They look so precarious given the solidity of the structured words.

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I suppose part of what was so interesting about this exhibition was how they used the space. Very effectively in my opinion. As you wander through the exhibition, you are wondering through the words. Almost as if you are a character in a book submerged within your own story. I like how they were centered in the room rather than up against the wall, that would be so boring! The lighting in the gallery did wonders for the work as well. Shadows on the floor, on the walls, within the letters themselves. It just accentuated the artwork beautifully. And of course the colours are to die for, subtle yet exuberant. 

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I liked the contrast the large pastel lettering held with the miniature monochrome lettering. Again it demonstrates an understanding of the space; how important the floor is. A lot of people don’t realise this but the utilisation of the floor not only lay with the Abstract Expressionist artists such as Jackson Pollock, but is was also rooted in Korean traditional art. The Korean artists viewed the floor as superior to the wall in terms of a working space. They never bothered with easels instead choosing simply to kneel whilst they worked. I suppose this was linked to the cultural traditions that included the removal of shoes as a sign of respect upon entering somebody’s house. I will dig up my notes and do a post about it at some point as it is all very beautiful and inspiring to learn about. I stumbled across the traditions of Korean art when I was doing research a while back and coincidentally I had been doing most of my work by kneeling on the floor. It’s funny, but sometimes it really does feel like books speak to you. 

Laurence Kavanagh: ‘October’

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As promised here is the post about Laurence Kavanagh whose work I viewed the other night at Gallery North. I wasn’t sure what to make of it initially. My first observation was the lack of colour. The show was entirely  monochrome with the exception of one piece. As a result it was evident that Kavanagh had truly pushed his monochrome palette to it’s limits, using tonal shades of grey I didn’t even know existed! It made me think of the work of John Virtue (see below).

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Virtue’s work is purely black and white as well. In first year I came across him and at the time I was painting colourful landscapes using oil and white spirit. So my work was incredibly liquid based – I was even dabbling in egg tempura. Upon discovering Virtue’s work I decided to remove all colour from mine; something I had never done before. And something I will never do again! It really did feel limiting. Yet at the same time it was incredibly refreshing as it forced me to use far more imagination, particularly in the textural sense. I used pins to poke holes in my paper, impasto paste mixed into my paint, allowed my liquids to become far more volatile and fluid. It was however quite a struggle, especially when you look at how stark and colourless my studio became (see below).

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So I am actually in relative awe that Kavanagh managed to create an entire exhibition in this colour palette without exploding! He too however turns to texture as a substitute for colour. The way in which he folds his paper is incredibly efffective, not only does it appeal to our tactile senses, but it also creates dramatic shadows given the gallery lighting. 

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I think this image above has to be my favourite piece. The little house is just adorable! The paper folds and creases give it an almost child-like quality which I find very appealing. The frame offsets the piece perfectly. People always debate over the importance of framing saying an artwork should be able to stand whether it’s in a good frame or not. I disagree. I think a frame can make or break an artwork. If my work is framed incorrectly it just pisses me off and I feel like the entire work is lost. Slightly over dramatic I know, but when you envision how an artwork should look and it goes wrong, it’s just irritating. However, Kavanagh doesn’t need to worry because his simple and elegant black frames compliment his work perfectly. 

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The exhibition was aesthetically pleasing in terms of its layout as well. I loved when I walked in and was greeted by an almost cinema screen-like sculpture (top photo). This piece is probably most suggestive of the concepts behind his work. He is exploring the correlation between how we view touch in both the physical and visual sense. Taking the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional and using them as a means to explore the relationship between subject and photographic imagery. 

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I like how there is all of this allusion and suggestion of cinema, yet there is a total absence of moving image work. Instead, you have sculptures reminiscent of cinema projectors occupying floor space. Long shadows, spotlights and rectangular shapes all suggest but nothing confirms the cinematic presence. There is an air of expectation in the room, yet the pieces simply hang still and mysteriously giving nothing away. 

Laurence Kavanagh is a Warwich Stafford Fellow and produced ‘October’ through his research into Star and Shadow Cinema.

Alexandra Searle: ‘Empty Vessels’

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I went to what was essentially a ‘pop up’ exhibition last night held at the Second Floor Studios of The Newbridge Project. It was a sculptural exhibit by artist Alexandra Searle in collaboration with Left Leg Gallery. Entry was through the back of Newbridge bookshop and up two flights of stairs. As I climbed the staircase my eyes were bombarded with posters of all sorts of upcoming art events and people to get in touch with. I officially felt like I was entering art world. Almost in the way that Alice fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. This feeling intensified as I made my way along the corridor towards the exhibit; there were materials scattered to my left and right and I could feel the creative energy of this building pulsating. As I entered the exhibition space I was met by a small crowd of people and a table filled with pink lemonade and cake. As I turned I was finally greeted by the artwork. There were wooden structures precariously balanced against the wall, a wooden pole stood straight as if it were holding up the ceiling, items hanging from industrial rope. Balance and the precarious nature of the work were evidently strong themes. 

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The wall was a pastel pink with a drain pipe running along the top of it and the floor a foam blue. I thought these colours were incredibly complementary of the work, yet when it came to discussing the work with Searle, it turned out she had no part in the colour scheme of the backdrop. Sometimes it’s just the happy coincidences in life. As I questioned her it became clear that she had both a relationship with and a truly in-depth understanding of how to use material and fully stretch it to its limits. Playfulness is a predominant part of her work. When I asked her what her core concepts were to these pieces she said “exploring the materials and their weight”. Balance, volume and an element of risk are key features in this. The latex structure in the corner looks incredibly solid, yet of course the material itself is not. I suppose this was the moment where I felt the playfulness theme was the strongest. The temptation to reach out and touch this corner sculpture was incredibly difficult to resist given how tactile it looked! It contrasts brilliantly with the industrial heaviness of the concrete that made up the floor works. Given that this residency was merely ten days long, Searle did not have the time to use concrete but still wanted it present. Although she did not have the time to manipulate it, she did use it as a means of imprinting into her floor-based plaster works. A subtle yet incredibly effective way to correlate the pieces. 

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I suppose in most cases I’m biased in my reading of an artwork. All my work orientates on the human body therefore it’s difficult for me to move outside of myself and perceive a work outwith of this frame of mine. With Searle’s sculptures I felt I didn’t have to. There were too many bodily connotations for me to ignore. Casts alluding to nipples, bum-like works handing from the ceiling and then a piece suggestive of a vagina (above in case you hadn’t already noticed). I asked Searle if this was intentional and she said no, it was merely a happy side effect. She liked that her work could represent bodily elements, but that was by no means the objective. And I like that too. I think ambiguity is something I really struggle with in my work as it is often obvious that it’s all about the body, yet ambiguity is something I find so attractive in art. God damn artists that have it nailed!

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When I spoke to Searle about her influences, I was delighted to hear Eva Hesse featured! Honestly, I am a sucker for all aspects of Hesse’s art. One of the things I find so refreshing about her as an artist is the fact she often favoured her work being presented in her studio as opposed to a gallery. And I suppose last nights exhibition was more studio then gallery based in terms of where it was presented. It’s only as I’m putting this post together that I realise all the photographs I took are close ups, none actually demonstrate how the space was used. Which is kind of irritating and stupid of me, but I think it’s just because I was so taken by the details. I wanted to touch everything and I think the zoom on my camera kind of became my substitute for the ability to touch. 

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 This was one of my favourite pieces (above). Again, I am unable to avoid the bodily connotations as to me it is suggestive of a bladder. What I love most though is it looks like it’s going to fall off at any minute. Yet at the same time it looks like it’s stubbornly going to hang on forever. I almost felt like I wanted to blow on it and watch it swing, tempting it to fall, testing it’s ability to hang on. And I feel like it would have succeeded. Having seen this exhibition, casting is definitely a route I want to go down. I don’t know why I’ve waited this long (well I do, I was going to do it last year but there were complications over workshop spaces.) Anyway, I’m going to try again. Plaster just seems to play with your senses. Invite you in and tease you, yet of course you wouldn’t dare touch an artwork in a space like this. Maybe I’ll make art that people can touch. Or maybe I’ll be too precious about it by the time I’ve made it. Or maybe I’ll try working with plaster and it will be a total disaster. Who knows, that’s the fun of it! And it seems Searle had fun here. Ten days is a tight schedule. Even tighter is the two days in which her work actually came together. I find that in most cases, the last minute rush is where you produce your best and most complex work and then you wish you had more time. But hey, if the end result is anything like Searle’s, who needs time?