- 22 June 2015
(article continued from previous post)
A vaguely familiar and catchy game type tune pulled me into an installation piece, ‘THE PURGE’, a joint work by three artists Chitra Sangtani, Lewis Prosser and Martha Simms. The tune and glittering colours welcome me to enter into the game world of The Purge, with an unsettling laughing audience on the screen behind me as I look to the earth spinning on the other two screens, to be offered on it the chance to win – to play and come out of this with nothing, if I can make it out of here at all I wonder. It is a sci-fi world where the gentle arts order has been vaporized. Some of the ‘Fun Trivia’ questions catch my attention –
‘With emphasis on the word ‘what’, what is totality?… Describe the sensation of total loss in 3 accurate words… With regards to the previous rounds, are you feeling lucky?’
‘The Purge’ film stills
Copyright the artists Chitra Sangtani, Lewis Prosser and Martha Simms
I like this piece, it symbolizes some feeling the graduates have about their situation in the art world and society and it marks a turning point perhaps in the fine art degree shows generally, which couldn’t have been ‘achieved’ in the Mackintosh building – here there is a more raw freedom to create without fear of the history and burden of expectations that came with the show. George Garthwaite’s work are wacky poetic odes to the dark heaviness that can seem to haunt the soul, the bleakness (of being a a young fine artist in the Tontine?). In his blog the artist says he is ‘interested in a world ridden with images and cartoons.’ The warm coloured textured paintings signed GG are at first glance comic strip satires of the seemingly everyday mundane transformed into peculiar and frivolous situations, but there lurks the impression of more depth, probing the soul… Moving away from everyday reality much like The Purge, a sense of upbeat animation elevating the dispirited or woebegone from the no-win.
Painting by GG (George Garthwaite), copyright the artist
There is also the feeling that this is not some kind of truly glorious stage or end point as was the feeling in the past, but a stage where the guidelines have been reset by the students. The idea now for students to go on to further education also frees up this stage point as more fluid and somewhat sets up the undergrad show as at odds with the new art establishment. So no matter how manic or non picturesque some of the degree works have become, let it be, GSA is serving the students well here with this working environment, although it has its obvious drawbacks too as an exhibition space, but these obstacles are surmountable and challenging in a good way. So out of something bleak, destruction has forced a new setup, which along with a changing mood amongst young artists, has encouraged a new wave of beatnik creativity.
Artwork by George Garthwaite, copyright the artist
‘Stage on TV’ and ‘Dead Horse’ by Jessie Whiteley, copyright the artist
I pass more corners, through more white walled nooks and more doors that open the wrong way. Must have just come the wrong way. A dead horse or some other animal perhaps sleeping and composed of plaster is almost stumbled across, it brings me closer to the floor at least, and also helps me take in some favorable examples of painting that are adjacent, with confident colours and brush marks. The installed sculpture and paintings here by Jessie Whitely are fun in an expansive way, and continue the non solemn mood of the show. They lift the spirits, and are imaginative and dreamlike, while technically very competent and attracting the viewer with the varied surfaces and textures. The artist says of the work:
‘Painting and drawing’s direct and sensitive qualities lead my work and allow me to work with ideas from chance and the subconscious… I use fantasy as a way of thinking about reality from day-to-day life and to explore the reality of the imagination, from working with it visually and manually. I work from an emotive, personal response to the theatrical, fantastical and humorous settings of modern life and the myth and metaphor of an Internet generation.’
‘Acid Rain’ by Jessie Whiteley, oil on canvas on board (50x100x240cm), copyright the artist
As I went down the stairs of the Tontine, I realize this has been a captivating undergraduate show, with ups and downs I guess, but good sometimes not to have too much well presented consistency in the fine art context. The building is a bit mad and bad an environment – an ideal change. A bit tired out, I headed back up through the city centre on foot via the art stores on Queen Street, uphill towards the canal and the M8, to the Glue Factory for the Maters of Fine Art Degree Show. Always good to see what those masters of fine art are doing over there, it is a fantastic exhibition space.
The entry to the space was welcoming and I am given a floor plan. There are some experiments with potential, and early on the installation and video work by Monica Foote captivates, ‘This is Where the Magic Happens’. This piece has stage set like shapes on the left and right that fragment and interrupt the video projection – these frame a space where the artist made a performance piece. Nearby I am stopped by Morwenna Kearseley’s two channel video installation ‘To Speak is to Starve’ with the large projections facing each other. As I stand in between the projections I am unable to see both at once. Looking from point to point I see fast moving close-ups of a hand turning and tapping to create rhythm. Visual information is edited to a minimum, allowing the sound of voices and the notion of voices to accumulate and move your perceptions. I walk around the show. Although presented adequately enough, some of the works this year are missing something integral, though at first I think maybe this is just the feeling after coming from the undergrad.
Some of the video pieces are becoming more engaging and sophisticated. Using video projection to shine angular forms of light through acetate with a seamless array of other materials, Heather Lander creates the standout highlight of this show – ‘Materials and Duration (1 and 2)’ (1 – Diacel acetate, projector, steel, video edit of light sculpture, wood, 17 min video loop; 2 – 4 way video splitter, LED monitor, perspex, steel, video edit of light sculpture, wood, 12 min loop). Two artworks charge the dark industrial space with hologram like intensity, a smaller structure with four contained moving images that deftly reflect up onto perspex, and the large piece which opens out around the whole space so that both pieces work together. The larger projection of the forms reflect off and through the transparent plastic, which are hanging together in aligned layers, and jettison the chromatic light reflections out onto the surrounding walls of the darkened room and large metal door surfaces at the furthest end of the space.
Heather Lander, ‘Materials and Duration (1)’, photograph by Jack Wrigley
Heather Lander, Installation view of ‘Materials and Duration (1 and 2)’, photograph by Jack Wrigley
The piece mesmerizes and is a beautiful experience to gaze at and be part of in the space. Standing, glimpsing the ever changing light here and there, near and far, as it meanders and curves, metamorphosing from combined 3D looking geometric forms to organic flows of colour, fusing in and out of focus. There is a harmonic calm here in this piece, yet strength. The artist gives an insight into the thinking and application of her work:
‘Our perception of reality, and how phenomena such as illusions and technology can alter this, has been the key component to my work this past year. How we recognise and keep hold of reality in a world that is working towards complete virtual immersion is the question my work is currently investigating.
The imagery being projected in the two pieces in the degree show use edited video I took of a perspex sculpture I made that I projected moving image onto. This sculpture was the first thing I made while on the course and it has been my resource material for the sculptural/video installations.’
From being immersed in the chaotic creative whirlpool of the Tontine earlier in the day, this momentary and yet highly sophisticated piece has made it well worth coming to the MFA exhibition. Altogether the GSA Degree Shows this year have been energizing, and with the three distinct exhibition environments each has been unique.
- 22 June 2015
Methodically I began the GSA Degree Show journey. Working my way through the gleaming open spaces of the Steven Holl designed Reid Building, an interior shimmering in neutrality and sinuos equilibrium, taking in the impressive efforts of the students in the various design disciplines. Spotless presentation in a perfect exhibition environment, no place for too much messy artfulness – an appropriate haven for the marketing of the school, indeed an additional key asset to the Mackintosh building. Communication Design was particularly strong this year.
With larger scale works and quirky comical pieces testing the boundaries of the what the Communication Design department’s designers conceive of as art or design, and continuing to plug any gaps in between. Calum Macleod’s large collagraph print holds the space and combines a dynamic and outwardly simple composition with modulating colours and a repeated, almost biotic or cellular texture that draws the eye around the curve. I like the confidence in the paper’s unworked negative spaces. After this masterclass in design at the Reid I headed down through the Merchant City to see the Fine Art Degree Show at the Tontine East Building, unsure what to expect from the new space with the Mackintosh building being out of action due to the ongoing process of fire damage restoration.
At Glasgow Cross the narrow entrance to the Tontine was fronted by friendly looking red and black suited bouncers, an unlikely but curious start. Up the stairs of this traditional early 1900’s Grade B listed office building the show began on the third floor, past some padlocked space below, through some double doors and an old reception area. Next into a wider room nevertheless packed with walls and things, plastic, soil, fragments of artwork, monitors, skirmishes in creativity versus architecture – what exactly happened here?
Wondering around a corner and old kitchen, drawn into a darkened series of rooms and the noise of some overly loud video works, then into rooms where the graduating students had built more rooms, leaving curious gaps with various detritus around. Walking further, and looking ever hopefully for signs to guide me through more doors, some with fascinating tiny handles on one side and full height ones on the other, like being pulled into someone else’s fairytale or nightmare, the show continued. However I started to adjust to the situation, the Tontine fine art world, where the realm of the fabulous Mackintosh campus and its brilliance and harmony was far enough away and out of mind. The display began to organise and space out, more light filtering in through the large windows looking onto the lanes and old and new Glasgow around the historic junction of the cross. There was the sense I was moving somewhere, from one work to the next, albeit in circles.
One artist I liked early on was Georgia Mackie, whose two large video works were like numerous flickering strips of vertical film, each subtly but quickly changing colour and with a mysterious tonality. ‘Seasons 1 to 4’ (HD video, 14:20 min, 2015) is more compressed with verticals, each a moving image in itself, but too narrow to see any subject – the digital flowing abstraction transitions from warmer reds and oranges to cooler purples and blues. The scale of the projection here being about two metres across. The pieces are silent which works with the imagery and which is also a relief from the combination of the sound ricochets of other pieces nearby. In ‘Seasons 5’ (HD video, 4:36 min, 2015) the complexity is less, the strips being thicker and so allowing the changing areas of light to emerge and have a more impact against the blacks and dark blues. These combine to make a mature video installation.
A performance artist-musician with drums connected to his limbs awoke from a deep slumber in his degree show pod and subsequently furtively stalked me for a while. I awkwardly stopped and let him pass by without a word, his drums clanging as he went by, adding to the intermingling sound waves of different works, or was it the building itself speaking? After the Reid Building the students’ works looked sometimes bizarre, sometimes deliberately very poor quality in execution, yet they were not invisible but were communicating, about all sorts of issues, ideas, preferences. There was a lot of noise going on, into the varied jumble of peoples’ heads, but it was exciting – maybe not a roller coaster ride, more like being pulled through a series of washing machines…
(part two of review continued in next post)
- 08 February 2015
Upper image: Janus (satellite) as imaged by Cassini, NASA, 2008.
Lower image: ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, 1975, Peter Weir. Screen shot.
A refreshing breeze moved through the Saltmarket in Glasgow in January, with a series of temporal, light and strangely magnetic works shown by artists Stephanie Burt and Kirsty Palmer. Being exhibited at 87 Saltmarket as one of the The Glasgow Masters Series for 2014-15 (both artists having graduated from Glasgow School of Art MFA in 2014), this collaborative joint show expressed similar themes of transience and materiality in each artist’s works, though with different styles, colour and relationship to the space, a bright, high ceiling refurbished tenemental shop in the Merchant City area.
Inviting the viewers closer and closer, we discover fragmented shapes, half hidden in the gallery nooks and crannies and shadowed recesses, and tip toe around changed and unchanged materials of cloth and remnants of something with paint, or microcosmic remnants of past or future worlds, taking the form of something lunar, broken, battered or newly emerged from darkness. The exhibition title JANUS is apt, the name of the ancient Roman deity symbolizing change and time, and the overseer of impermanent transitions, laterally taking the form of a bearded two headed fellow – gazing firmly into time past and time future. The timing of the show in January is right too (the month is named after Janus) at the beginning transition point of the year. The sense of collaboration here is in artworks that are at their nature fleeting themselves as well as pointing outwards to temporary metaphysical realms.
This is seen in the image of ‘Janus’ reworked and torn by Kirsty Palmer – from an image of a satellite moon of Saturn named after the Roman god, aka Saturn X. There is the astronomical sense of movement and providing change seen in the ancient classical ideas of the heavens, where for instance Janus would provide the god Jupiter with the possibility of motion. The pieces ‘Janus I’ and ‘Janus II’ (digital print, plaster, fabric, both created in 2015) are small pieces on the floor surface or wall ledge, at first inconspicuous and seen from afar, in a way cleverly expanding the sense of the dimensions of the gallery space.
Palmer subtly places pieces with plenty of breathing space and assymetrical, some laying flat and others standing, with or without delicate frame like structures, that are works in themselves and also serve to guide, question and protect, and these make up a constellation of ‘Studio Objects II’ (2015, plaster, paint, balsa wood, fabric, drawing). This installation of various media is unified yet with disparate elements. Something of her creative process is revealed in the accompanying exhibition info: ‘Through an apparent process of simultaneously revealing and concealing, it can be seen to draw attention to variations between certainties or extremes; the ‘big’ and the ‘small’, the vertical and horizontal, the solid and transparent. Works often refer to ideas of the ‘fixing’ of an image whilst acknowledging a temporality and precariousness.’
The installation ‘Miss McCraw Loses her Skirt at Hanging Rock’ (2015, baby shoes, lamp, cactus, metal wire, ribbon, cloth, lace, string, paper, metal) by Stephanie Burt, image above, is contained in its own private space, lit by a lamp on the floor. It scales up the back wall on its frame of linear metal dynamics, overlaid with fabric, in a similar process to that of Palmer. The frame, wire and ribbon extends through the space opening up further negative spaces. This collaboration of concepts complements each artist.
The hanging cactus is fun, and with the strange once forgotten baby shoe and personal items, questions about the origin and history of the materials and previous owners emerge. The exhibition info alludes to this: ‘…invites the viewer to explore dialogues between her sculptural installations and their settings through a fictional narrative at times referencing film and literature. Materials used in her works are usually abandoned and yet hold traces of their interior and exterior environment.’ There is a delicate balance in this collaborative exhibition that perhaps allude to a worldview of change, impermanence, critique of consumerism and indeed a movement away from grandiose artistic gestures whether in scale of work, longevity or sense of product, or dominance of message and reliance on language based communication. Rather a sense of flux, here and gone.
- 30 June 2014
This year’s MFA from Glasgow School of Art was a very strong showing of many mature and confident works that, after several years of mixed MFA degree shows, really lived up to the challenge of the space. The Glue Factory presents artists with the opposite of a white cube space, it is an old converted factory that retains a life, and atmosphere, of itself, with its dark cavernous rooms downstairs , nook and crannies, remnants of industrial machinery, and fascinating combinations of materials wherever you look as you walk into the brighter spaces on the upper floor. So a pretty distracting environment for artists to work with.
The thematic content and character of the artworks by the students was totally different in this show, the video works downstairs especially unified in much more visual and dreamy, non human focus, interacting with the heavy, cold feeling of the spaces. Selma Hreggviðsdóttir’s ‘Shrine’ room with nine minute video, near the entrance to the show, encapsulated this mood. The square format, projected roughly a few metres wide, presented a telescopic looking glass like composition with gradually moving shots and subtle overlaps of what looked like landscape and rocks close-ups. Sometimes the movement would be horizontal, and other times would switch to vertical, giving an automated or alien impression of the earth from above. The ambient music worked very well, creating a slow motion soundscape.
Into the space, more video works presented worlds without people, with a sense of quiet randomness. Some visitors left remarking on the lack of interest in portraits this year, maybe they came to the wrong show! This quiet was palpable, a kind of lurking feeling behind the works, as if the building was communicating through them. Emily McFarland’s three videos created larger spaces to look into -her ‘Zabriskie Point Reversed.MOV’ (6 mins) used slow motion, reversing an explosion of stuff into a bright blue happy sky. There again a mood non commercial, a destruction of the world of things.
Into further darker rooms, Katrina Valle’s ‘Mezzanine’ (HD video, 19 mins) had apparently abstracted flames turning quickly in the darkness, so that the screen itself would be no longer separate from the space. As you peer closer, the image unravels from fragmented shapes into what appears to be candles moving round a glass. Next to this room, the first of a few strong works by Lauren Wells, ‘Bouncing Light’ (digital video, 3.45 mins) turned a tunnel like area on its side, subverting the horizon with shaky filming and night like spaces. Continuing the dreamy trip through the darkness, I moved into the next space, a contained installation by Ying Cui, ‘As Far as I Heard’, a neon red glowing room with videos, sound, acrylic, plastics and tracing papers. All these materials and film sequences were able to overlap, creating a complicated and unclear feeling, simulating multi layered experiences and thoughts. The projected film through the shapes created an almost abstract expressionist piece.
I inched carefully forward to the next exhibits, two works by Lauren Wells, guided by a glimmer of light from upstairs. Although her text piece, with reliance on the screen wasn’t quite my thing, her next video ‘Dream’ (5.29 mins – “It’s all new. It’s all part of her past” reads the title card), for which you had to crouch down to see it, was very appealing. Hazily captured waves breaking, and breaking, on an unknown shore at night, a lighthouse light blinking far out on the next headland through the low blue light.
Upstairs and into the light, Kirsty Palmer’s new work delightfully followed in the footsteps of her undergraduate degree show, with an array of sensitively crafted and placed temporary pieces, plus video and two dimensional work, making up a fascinating installation titled ‘Points Between’. The low grounded-ness of the works, some smaller and curiously positioned to draw you in closer, was interesting, such as the small film (‘bloom for a bushfire’, digitally edited super 8mm film, 30 mins) projected next to the stairway. Here subtly shifting and changing close up views of plant matter, densely jungle like but muted, set up a background mood for the still works in the brighter room adjacent. The standing plaster pieces, some looking very recently made as if they may just melt, flow, crumble or subside right in front of you, look at first quite minimal or calm. As you observe these however you become aware of the myriad of textures, from those of the digital print transfers worked in while wet to the scooped plaster marks of the ‘rescued ring’ and the bubbling crustaceous ‘seed pod’. The tonality and especially the organic presence of this body of work again intertwined poignantly with the architecture of the Glue Factory.
Also on the top floor was a quirky, outsider type film which was quite original and fun, ‘Bootcut Renaissance’ (HD video, 5.10 mins) by Dominic Watson. It should be pretty bad, using a dancing sculpted manly figure of clay or paper mache and wild west set, with music by Lana Del Rey – ‘Blue Jeans’ – but funnily sets off the tongue in cheek themes with the props including very cheap shoes and shirt that toys with the viewer, and is reminiscent of some Hollywood road movie and love story gone wrong. Overall the MFA this year was a really strong exhibition showing quite a few interesting artists with a refreshing mindset and take on contemporary art. They will be good to go find again in future, perhaps in more dark and strange exhibition spaces.
Probably one of Scotland’s best art galleries although far from the cities in the beautiful Orkney Mainland, the artwork at The Pier Arts Centre in Stromness (which has a connection to the Tate) is often nicely presented and curated. And so I wasn’t disappointed by their recent exhibition ‘Living Colour’ which a friend had recommended to me. This was a tremendously exciting show, in a way a retrospective documenting, and also repositioning, animation and especially hand painted artwork onto film (rather than filming with a camera) as truly powerful artistic statements that were ahead of their time.
Highlights of the show began right away with Oskar Fischinger’s ‘Radio Dynamics’, a transcendental and fast paced trip of a film with a an experimental range of shapes and colours to lose yourself in. This piece pushes the visual boundaries, taking abstract expressionism into moving image in a forward pulling relentless exploration that is mesmerising. Seeing its mature combinations, reminiscent of that of the American based painters Hans Hoffman, Josef Albers and Mark Rothko, questions our understanding of abstraction at that time.
Part of the McLaren 2014 programme, the next strong piece was by the pioneering Scottish filmmaker himself, Norman McLaren, from 1949 – ‘Begone Dull Care’ (see the 7min 52s video below, courtesy of The National Film Board of Canada). Watch the visuals of this frameless film flow with the jazzy music and especially piano by the Oscar Peterson Trio. The splashy and textured mark-making slides from very simple and funny-quirky to more heavy, built up and layered surfaces, but mainly has a delightful drawing feel, and one which is so in tune with the processes as well as the free sounds of the instruments.
Moving towards the end of the show’s chronology, more recent work included a speedy piece by self taught filmmaker Ian Helliwell called ‘Get Set’ – here the artist made the excellent soundtrack with a toy organ. It was great to see that the seminal ‘Dresden Dynamo’ (16mm film, made 1974, 5 mins, colour, 4:3) by Lis Rhodes was on display too.
I had enjoyed seeing this very electronic feeling piece in the Tramway art gallery in Glasgow, through the LUX Collection, a year or so ago, and although on a smaller screen, the cadmium red and cereleum-cobalt blue linear minimalism was again highly striking. The pureness of the abstraction seen here in her earlier work hits the mark, thematically totally non verbal or language orientated, stemming from the method of sound creation that the projector bulb would interpret the sound of the images…
“It was perhaps the question of sound – the uncertainty of any synchronicity between what was seen and what was said that began an investigation into the relationship of sound to image. Dresden Dynamo is a film that I made in 1972 without a camera – in which the image is exactly the sound track – the sound track the image. A film document.” – Lis Rhodes
- 27 May 2014
New exhibition coming up at Hamilton College of three of the art students there. Anis, Bayne, Breen. This is their excellent foldout preview card.
This month I exhibited at the excellent Factory Hanbunko gallery in Takaoka near the Nihon Kai (Japan Sea). Huge thanks to the staff and especially Ayaka-san for helping me put this together and promoting the new artworks. Takaoka is a fascinating old city and this Kura (former traditional warehouse) space in the gallery is a beautiful all wood interior with a great atmosphere and diffused light.
The city will soon be linked up by a new Shinkansen route along this stretch of the Hokuriku coast and is well worth a visit, with many old buildings and temples (such as the Soto Shu Otera with the figures wearing Rakusu) unscathed by history. The coffee shop we visited nearby the gallery, Irodori Kissaten (Marunouchi 5), serving the delicious chocolate cake, is in a superb refurbishment of an old house.
I’m really looking forward to exhibiting some drawings at the Factory Hanbunko Gallery in Takaoka, Japan, in November this year. The city is near the Japan Sea in a beautiful area of northern Japan. Looks like a interesting gallery space in a fantastic refurbished old building with contrasting interior whites and blacks and dark wooden beams. Thanks to the friendly gallery team there – I will be showing new drawings from recent projects. Look out for more info to follow.
6 to 13th Novemeber 2013
Factory HAN BUN KO (はんぶんこ)
I’ve been asked to participate in a Glasgow School of Art Alumni show at Scotland Art Gallery in Bath Street (Glasgow City Centre). One of my darker pieces, ‘Box Two’, a three foot square painting, oil on canvas, will be exhibited. The gallery is in the city centre not far from the art school itself, and the show runs from the 6th June to the end of the month.
My friend Nicola Prosser is organising this exhibition, if you would like to submit work. It sounds like an open and very worthwhile show to be involved in.
6×4” is an exhibition that will explore the postcard as a distinctive artistic medium in its own right. Artist-designed postcards are small, intimate, unique pieces to be either distributed or collected by individuals.
Artists’ postcards, however, are not only about creating images on a blank canvas. It is also about the artists’ interaction with existing postcards, manipulating imagery by collaging found materials, drawing, painting or cutting into the surface. The exhibition, 6×4”, provides an opportunity to explore the potential of the this form through artist-designed or artist-manipulated postcards.
Images can employ any technique and can be drawn, typographic, photographic, printed onto, or manipulated. They can be landscape or portrait, address any subject matter from conceptual to humorous and can be singular or part of a series. The only restriction is the image must fit within postcard dimensions.
The exhibition is just about exploring and enjoying the format and having a bit of fun with it.
Jeremy Cooper – Aritsts’ Postcards: A compendium . Reaktion Books. (2012)
NSEW Press. – http://www.nsewpress.com/
OPEN CALL ///
You are invited to submit a postcard sized artwork to be included in the exhibition 6 x 4”.
This is a project by Nicola Prosser, a member of Exhibitions at DJCAD’s Student Curatorial Team.
The Install will begin on the 11th of March in the Cooper Gallery Project Space in DJCAD in Dundee. You are welcome to submit.
MORE INFO AND TO SUBMIT///
Please contact : firstname.lastname@example.org to register interest