Since all this is about is getting work out there for people to see, so it can start dialogs with them and other work, the opportunities on this course have been coming thick and fast lately.
The group show we participated in at Hannah Barry Gallery was curated by Dave Charlesworth who came up with a brilliant concept based on Corbusier’s theory of a building being a machine for living in. Here, the proposition was that an artwork is a machine for an idea to live in. Consequently, this unwieldy group of MA students was tamed into a stunning show with an interesting narrative. Not only was the work very well curated, there was a collaborative video and publication too. Using the multiple elements of so many peoples work as the work itself was really successful on both counts, with a perspective on the group presented in a unified way.
The show was as much a lesson in curating as participating. Seeing the floor hang, the wall hang, and the subsequent 3 wall hangs carried out to the full gave a real insight into the evolution of a space and the work sitting within it. No tears or tantrums, a great group project.
Based on how much I enjoyed this process, I am keen to press on with future shows at other galleries, utilising their spaces in-between scheduled exhibitions, to keep an ongoing dialogue going between our work, and the spaces it is seen in.
David Nash gave a talk at Kew last week, in conversation with Sue Clifford, founder of Common Ground
They spoke about the evolution of their work, and where they have coincided. David Nash is as generous as ever with his energy and tales, and it was more of a retrospective evening than engagement in new critical contexts. This was in keeping with the constancy of the natural evolution of how Nash has always worked, how his works work, and how the world works, in particular, nature.
I had a good wander round Kew Gardens for a couple of hours before the talk, and took in some of the work in situ. Most of it I had seen at last years Yorkshire Sculpture Park show, but it was great to see them in different contexts. In particular the Oculus Block, a gargantuan form made of four fused eucalyptus trunks, and the Charred Sphere.
The Oculus Block was inside at YSP, where it towered over you and filled a huge space with it’s presence. Somehow here, outside, it seemed even bigger. The textures of the surface are even more pronounced. The views through the spaces are all different.
The Charred Spere is on a hill, sited close to the Kew Time Capsule. This struck me as a commentary on the future of the planet if we don’t alter our behaviour. Nash diplomatically sidestepped my direct question about this later…
Walking for Graham Hudson round Embankment and Covent Garden, negotiating the interruptions in my journey for him, I became distracted by the hundreds of cables leaking out and snaking their ways back again into our buildings.
Foreheads and paraphernalia. Presented as the collected evidence of work and workings from the last 15 years or so, visiting this show felt like a privalige and and intrusion. The work of each artist is very different with Jones presenting an assemblage of objects and manipulations of found materials, and Ghazi presenting an extensive archive of papers and books. Yet each felt like an insight into the thinkings and working outs of the artists.
Jones uses everyday objects and materials in his constructions. They populate the spaces downstairs and are arranged by the artist. There seemed to be a restless enquiry, an obsessive musing on formal forms of square, circle and triangle. Each is played out directly or abstractly in domestic materials, suggesting autobiography, collection, and melancholy nostalgia.
Ghazi strips his work back to the archive, exhaustively labeled and unified in grey crates or box files. Given the opportunity to browse someone else’s interested and collection, you start to notice the subjects you are drawn to, so I felt I was examining my own train of thought as much as someone else’s. There is a voyeurism to this exploration, where every cutting and collection is rewarded with its own labeled file, so some are stuffed full of sketches, cuttings, books or photographs, whilst some contain one lonely image or DVD.
Just as I was getting really excited by the wonder of this openness and honesty I remembered that the exhibition notes talk about the fiction and contrivance of the work too, and that jolt of possibility sent me off to ponder what the work was trying to tell me after all, all be it in a different language. I wouldn’t mind speaking either. My eyes and my brain have been treated to a banquet.
When we started this MA it was 100% from the word go. We are feasting on input and critique, visits and discussions, talking about our own work and all our work, and all the work we see in the world. This repeated contextualisation and enquiry into these foundations and inspirations of our work got us talking.
Along with Mel Cole and James Edgar, we decided to curate a show to draw together artists whose work both responds directly to the work of others and their ideas, and also influences and inspires our work. Admittedly this doesn’t narrow it down much, so we looked quite close to home, around south London, and to artists whose work is very current. We discussed artists we are excited about, and drew up a ‘fantasy’ list of people to invite.
This was really nerve-wracking for me and I think for all of us. Just starting out on my MA I was still finding my feet, and slowly gaining confidence as an artist and as an individual. Approaching established practitioners who are all busy and productive individuals, would they take us seriously? Turns out that the more seriously you take yourself, the more seriously people take you. And we were serious about this show.
Symposium at The Showroom Gallery featuring artists who had participated in the year-long project Exhibition as Medium
The speaker Janna Graham really stood out during the packed day, talking about ‘parasites like us- studies of the possible in impossible times’
NESTA, the innovation research organisation, has shown that artists and creative sector professionals (who earn so much less for so much longer than other sectors) set up the prototype for wider economic development.
This means that our current actions, and what we agree to are influencing the wider model.
Consider the service you provide and what you accept in exchange for it.
When are we the parasite? and when are we the host? see what we contribute, and where the support comes from.
An exhibition is a moment of consolidation rather than an end point.