Artist Takeover at The Laing Art Gallery

IMG_8759

At the weekend The Laing Art Gallery held an amazing Artist Takeover Event. It was the first time they had ever held such an event and it was partially a testing ground and partially to raise awareness in their aim of winning a bursary. If they succeed and win this bursary it will bring artist Marcus Coates to the gallery to host a ‘Museums at Night’ event in October. Given the success of Saturday, I am feeling positive for The Laing, however it will all depend on voting (see bottom of blog page). The Artist Takeover was unlike anything I had ever participated in before. It was a very exciting day with the event running from 10-4pm. Not only was the event open to working artists, but to anyone who considered themselves an artist and a whole range of mediums were therefore accepted. These included contemporary dance, paper-cutting, a blackboard of ideas, modernist installation art, live painting, charcoal and inks, and performance art. This made for an eclectic variety of practices and a room bubbling with creative energy and people. 

IMG_8775

I myself had proposed to do a piece of Performance Art which explores the relationship between the serenity of yoga and the manifestation of trauma within the female mind and body. I had never proposed anything before and this was a very interesting proposal in the sense that only one sentence was required. This was challenging  yet helpful to me; as to sum up my work in such a short word count is difficult, but also beneficial as it forced me to really consider and realise what my work is currently about. 

IMG_8763

So not only was the day itself exciting and new, but the experience was also a great one. I spoke to so many different and like minded people, artists, non-artists, the curator. It was a day filled with learning and inspiration, of pushing the boundaries of what art could be and the way we view conventional gallery spaces. It was also a whole new experience for me performance wise. As it was an entire day event, I decided to perform more than once, which I have never done in a single day before. I thought I would be more nervous doing this, however the relaxed and creative atmosphere helped put me at ease. I did the first performance in the room with all the other artists but in a different room for the other two in order to create a different environment for myself. It was interesting how the differing rooms affected and shaped how the performance evolved as apart from my prop of ribbons it was entirely improvised.

IMG_8780

I had a sound piece to accompany my work which filled the gallery space with the sound of my breathing, which brought an unsual atmosphere into the room. In comparison to a lot of places, I would consider The Laing quite a traditional gallery as it holds a lot of spectacle artwork such as that of John Martin (he is one of my favourite artists and I actually did a performance piece in the room where his works were hung which was an incredibly exciting moment for me!) Yet the Artist Takeover completely transformed this stereotype of it for me. I realised that The Laing was willing to engage with its local artistic community. It is a rarity for local artists to be asked into a professional gallery space which is why I was so honoured to have my proposal accepted. It was such a great experience and can hopefully be the first of many events such as these.

IMG_8783

I think a lot of people can feel isolated from the arts or not good enough to either engage or practice art. Events such as this however I feel help break down those boundaries; they make you realise that art can be anything. There was dance, there was mime and there was performance present in the gallery alongside more traditional art forms such as painting and it was refreshing to have these conventional forms of artistic segregation removed and the broad umbrella of the word ‘art’ applied instead.

IMG_8765

Art is limitless, but art also relies on an artistic community and I think an event such as this truly harnesses this and taps into what contemporary art means today. Hopefully this sense of community and artistic discussion can be expanded and built on with Coates’ arrival in October. 

IMG_8764

If you’re interested in finding out more about the October event, take a look at The Laing Art Gallery’s website: 

https://laingartgallery.org.uk/votesforcoates

IMG_8770

Advertisements

Back to The Empty Quarter

2

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot more about my body against the natural environment and of possible places to shoot. I’m interested in how different environments create different messages when the body is posed in a particular setting. Such as with my graveyard and park shoot pictured above (click here to see post). Those were two selected settings with a chosen purpose at a certain time. My boyfriend was very kindly the photographer and it was interesting working with him and taking on board his notions of the surroundings. Varying interpretations are created all the time in artwork and it’s a really important thing to be aware of, particularly given that I work with the female body in the climate of social media and society’s conventional expectations of what beauty is and should be.

P1090883

I like the idea of shooting in a setting that has some personal attachment to me. I don’t just want to use anywhere as a canvas for my body. The personal relationship to place is integral as that is the only way I feel I can translate the intimate relationship I have with my body into the image. So I started thinking about places that I had been and thought back to The Empty Quarter in Oman, Middle East. It is one of those places that has really stuck with me throughout my life. The powerful feeling of solitude and silence in this empty wilderness leaves a lot for thought. When I think of Oman, I think of beaches, water, diving, mountains and here. There are no words to describe the beauty of this endless desert. We camped there meaning we got to see the transition from scorching hot sunlight, to a glowing sunset that never seemed to end. We climbed to the very top of the sand dune (which gave us all a good dose of exercise!) and we were greeted by the view I’ve captured in these images.

P1090885

The photographs definitely do not do this place justice, but they draw me back in as if I have never left given my experience of it. I feel like I can enter that image and fall back into the slippery sand that would not leave my socks, feel it tickle the backs of my legs, feel the warmth of the sun and the slight discomfort of the humidity. This is why I need  to work with a location which has some form of nostalgia, or that was from a different time in my life. I like the idea of bringing the past into my work and in a sense bringing the past forwards into the present. 

P1090882

If only I could go back to this beautiful untouched landscape. The dunes sat so perfectly, their lines looked as if they had been drawn with a precise fine liner pen. The sand was so soft in my hands and it danced off into the sunset as I let it go. I would love to go back there and do a subtly nude shoot. Nothing of a sexual nature, just a shoot that encapsulated the female body in one of the most beautiful settings in the world. Sadly I no longer have access to this (maybe one day I’ll return) and as it’s on the border of Saudi Arabia, posing naked in the desert is probably not the best idea!

P1090877

I am however on the look out for a beautiful place to escape to. I think it’s really healthy to step out of the studio and away from modern day life into nature. And what could be a more perfect way to do so than through the medium of my own body? 

Benedict Drew

IMG_8496

I think it’s say to say that Benedict Drew’s wacky installation was by far my favourite work in The British Art Show 8. Exhibited within the Talbot Rice Gallery, Drew’s work is the definition of transforming a space into something completely new and exciting. What had been quite a clean cut angular-looking gallery space prior to my entry into this room, was soon turned upside down as I entered Drew’s work. I was instantly transported from the traditional gallery layout to what felt like a psychedelic sci-fi space. I was in awe. Sound pulsated heavily across the room; I could feel it in my core and reverberating through my entire body. There were headphones placed on the table which of course I reached out and tried on only to find that they amplified the sound that was already echoing around the room. It was almost like an electro heartbeat and instantly made me feel like I myself was a part of the piece.

IMG_8476

The utilisation of the architecture within the work furthered Drew’s success as I felt the gallery dissolved and blended into the installation to the point I felt fully consumed by the piece. Just like this installation, Drew’s practice spans a wide range of media including sound, performance, video and various other forms. He often creates chaotic and absorbing environments that pulsate with life, drawing in the viewer and providing them with a multi-sensory experience. Although there was a lot to take in when I viewed Drew’s work, surprisingly it was not overwhelming. Installations such as this have that risk factor; bombard your audience and your work is often lost on them. Yet Drew defied this by carefully distributing the pieces, creating a walkway for the viewer to enter and navigate their way effectively through his work. The shapes I was met with and the colours that were used all complemented and blended with each other allowing the human eye to adjust to the bright colour palette that was present. 

IMG_8481

When I got to the back end of the installation I was greeted by large, cinematic screens. Drew’s attention to detail was plain to see with the modern white speakers contrasting to the excess of cables wrapped believe it or not, in tinfoil. Drew took a domestic everyday item and turned it into an art piece that distracted nicely from the ridiculous amount of cables that all his technology requires. It also furthered my reading of the sci-fi elements. It was not just the detail in the cable layout, but also in the stands of the screens. Instead of being a dull conventional black they were a lime green that instantly caught my eye (probably due to the fact I seem to have developed an unexplained love for lime green). 

IMG_8482

According to The British Art Show’s text accompaniment to this piece, Drew was articulating “the horror of the modern world” through this work. Through his multi-media approach he explored this horror thoroughly! It was impossible to ignore the screens that bombarded you as you approached, an obvious reference to our screen culture of today. There was sound that shook through your bones, the way music does in a club. Colours and structures clustered everywhere in excess alluding to our material and consumer culture. There was no escape in this whimsical and all-consuming environment; the pace of it drew you in and refused to let go much in the way that modern day life does. 

IMG_8480

Yet in among all this technological-based motifs I was surprised to view what looked like mud puddles on screen. They were very anthropomorphic and alien given their electric colours, yet I half expected a David Attenborough voice over mixed up DJ style to come on!  It would not have surprised me, as this work was a constant succession of surprises – and puzzles. There was one area of each screen which had a shell attached to it and a spot light which remained the same colour despite the constant shift in imagery. I could not for the life of me figure out how Drew had managed this! 

IMG_8485

There was not a moment of boredom in this space. Despite this being the first piece I saw of The British Art Show, and despite me witnessing several other works that day, this was the one I could not stop thinking about. I couldn’t get this psychedelic experience out of my head. Partially I think because I was both impressed and fascinated by how Drew had used technology and created such an absorbing work. But also partially due to the elaborate colour scheme – I myself almost wanted to start glowing and blend into the work! I think it’s safe to say Benedict Drew succeeded in captivating his audience, whilst also posing some challenging questions concerning modern life today. 

Current Work; thinking site-specifically

2

I haven’t posted about my work in a while and seeing as I’ve been doing lots of it recently, I have a lot to talk about. Starting with this shoot. As I’ve slowly begun to enter the realm of performance art I have had to become increasingly aware of location in relation to my body. Where I place myself is just as important as the actions I carry out in the space. So I’ve been looking into site-specific art and reading various takes on the notion of the ‘white cube’ gallery space; how does placing your work within four white walls limit it? Does this impose an unwanted constrain? It depends on the work of course, some pieces thrive in a gallery setting, others need to expand beyond that. So this is what I’m playing with here. 

1.jpg

It was an instinctive decision to take my work to a natural based environment in place of the studio. Taking it to other buildings and artificial places such as shopping malls or car parks bring in too many connotations of capitalism and commercialism. Not my intentions by any means. Nature on the other hand sits well alongside my focus on the human body. So when I was back home I took myself to the gardens near my house and played around with the ideas of the artificial within nature and the obscurity of self. 

3.jpg

I’d actually forgotten that the bridge was painted blue and was really struck by how it stuck out in among the otherwise natural landscape. It was actually the bridge my parents had their wedding photos taken on so as well as complimenting the intentions of my shoot, it also holds a historical attachment for me. This brings in the element of time which I have  been looking at a lot recently, particularly in terms of viewing it as a medium and artistic concept in itself. There are several layers to my exploration of time in my current work which I won’t go into in depth, but a very simple aspect of it in the case of these photos is simply my choice of clothing; it’s very much a 1960s style dress which reverts back to a past era.

4

Time also comes into play when we photographed in the graveyard. There are a lot of things present in this, most obviously is the sensitivity of photographing in such a sacred place. Respect is something therefore that plays a big part in this as I was not wanting to be disrespectful in any way. Instead, I wanted to bring out the beauty in a place that is more often associated with grief and pain. Given the conventional associations of a graveyard, it was quite difficult to avoid what felt like an eerie scene. Unlike the gardens which were bursting with life; where there were children playing on the swings, ducks swimming in the pond, water flowing, etc. There were also a lot of people wondering the gardens as we were shooting.

5

In contrast to the gardens, the graveyard was empty; completely devoid of life. This felt very poignant as the two settings both reflect what it is they represent. The graveyard was quiet with nobody present, apart from the deceased. Whereas the park was full of youth and water. Water of course is the key to life and represents vitality. It is also another thing alongside time that I have been studying. So although from the outset the shoot kind of looks like I plonked myself in two settings for effect, that is not the case. They are highly considered. Nothing in my work lacks purpose, because otherwise I do not see the point in creating it. By formulating something with meaning, it allows the work to be more emotive and therefore better received. Or at least I hope so as emotive art to me is the most touching and consequently, the most effective.