Words by Santini Basra.
First published by The Skinny
Half Real brings together an international group of creative practitioners exploring and working within the intersection between art and videogames.
Half Real looks to explore the space between art and games, bringing together an impressive group of international artists and game designers including Rod Humble, the former CEO of Linden Lab (the company responsible for groundbreaking online multiplayer game Second Life) as well as Molleindustria, notorious for their guerrilla-style provocative socio-political games. The Italian group are best-known for Phone Story, a game which asks a player to become symbolically complicit in the unethical processes involved in producing a smartphone.
The selection of works on show, united by their medium – the video game – blur the boundaries of gaming with other art forms, focussing beyond gaming and games’ often overshadowing commercial aspect, and onto the spectrum of other roles the game can assume. The Graveyard, by Belgian studio Tale of Tales, simply asks the player to guide an old lady to a bench on the other side of a graveyard, where she sits, contemplates her life, and also may die. While extremely simple, the game powerfully confronts the player with the notion of death, and one’s acceptance of it.
On a similar level, Molleindustria’s Every Day the Same Dream follows the tedious and repetitive daily commute of a nondescript white collar worker, and encourages the player to subvert the repetitive banality of the character’s existence, in turn posing questions and providing ambiguous commentary on the notions of routine and repetition.
Through examining the work showcased at Half Real, it is clear that much of it has been produced in direct confrontation with the traditional ideals of the ‘game’ championed by the commercial videogame world. As Tale of Tales have mentioned in reference to their own work, “[it’s] about dispensing with the formalities of gaming”. This collection contributes to the ever expanding definition of the videogame, providing the medium a greater remit in which to exist and experiment, positioning them in roles beyond entertainment and into the realms of documentary, journalism, activism or commentary.
Maze Walkthrough by Serafin Alvarez positions itself central to the show, and certainly stands out in the body of work. The game consists of a never-ending series of connected corridors – each corridor taken from a sci-fi film, leaving the player to wonder through these with no goal or objective. The game is a manifestation of Alvarez’s obsession with the corridor as a liminal and transitional space, and almost exists as his personal museum, stitching together these spaces and leaving the player or viewer in a state of permanent transition. In wandering through these corridors a feeling of intrusion is elicited, as if you have stumbled into someone’s personal fiction and obsession and are seeing something that was meant to be hidden away.
Looking past the content and at the exhibition as a whole, Half Real provides an interesting perspective on the medium, and its role within the art space. In all cases, the work on show exists as downloadable files, which can be played on personal devices. However, positioning these games in a gallery space invites the viewer to engage on a more critical level, clearly framing the work as meaningful and content rich as opposed to a product for entertainment. As shown with MOMA’s acquisition of Pac-Man, in recent years we have started to accept the significance of the videogame medium, and Half Real serves to contribute to this growing awareness.
DEAN HUGHES AND KELLY CHORPENING
HANOVER PROJECT 1st – 23rd October 2015
Dean Hughes is interested in space. His work is initiated from recurrent moments of not knowing what to do. These moments of not knowing to Dean are absolutely everything and create space to notice moments, such as punching paper with a hole punch and reinserting the paper back into the hole perpendicular to the paper sheet. Such a grasped idea fuels work, often produced in series, to squeeze and exhaust the often purposeless notion, which can disregard the aesthetic and always returns him to the state of not knowing.
The work presented consists of immaculately made small wooden clothes horses upon which are draped pieces of calico, which have been dyed in the kitchen sink, in an unusual shift from his work to date which has not felt the need for colour. The use of colour is not considered, the dyes are proprietary unaltered colours and whilst he understands that colour can give an emotional response does not consider himself a colourist. Interestingly for Dean using colour triggers feelings of subversion and guilt, like being a bit naughty and also creates a distance from him and the work, creating another space which required reflection. The work was perceived to be looking back at him and required the addition of stitching to the calico, to add visual weight, to balance all of the elements, both calico and wood. This does seem to be resolved work.
Kelly Chorpening originally from and trained in the U.S. with a solid grounding in art history produces work which requires work. She creates drawings with dots and lines in a repetitive, disciplined, arduous process building a textural surface. The repetition evokes resonances between drawing and writing and also reading, time is required for these activities. Her work creates the possibility of something legible without being spelled out.
Her personal investment in her work on large scale paper and its inherent frailty has changed her working practice. The tearing of the paper that can occur over time has also exposed her own vulnerability and led to work that is easily portable and durable.
Steel plates are industrially moulded to the required shape and paper fixed to the surface. The drawings are created on these three dimensional planes which allows a flat image to be presented as a sculptural form, however whilst this gives solidity and emotional permanence, the paper surface exposes its frail surface to open view.
Kelly also presents four small drawing on paper which could appear to be variations of doorways or entrances, a portcullis, a front door or a numbered address. However in the finest tradition of The Academy these drawings are copies of masterpieces such as Giotto’s St Francis Receiving the Stigmata. They are drawings of the reverse, of the solid often repaired infrastructure, the wooden ramparts and skeletal structures supporting the ancient images.
Whilst not being formally connected by any joint working practice, the work does seem connected in many ways. The exhibition came about after a discussion between the artists and David Mackintosh, the custodian of the Hanover Project space, who suggested the title of the exhibition after receiving images from both artists that visually resembled tongues. The work was produced independently and curated at installation within the Hanover space. There are themes of solidity and vulnerability, of formalism and subversion and there are marks both drawn and stitched that seem to want to give us literal meaning. This show is both visually alluring, in parts beautiful, and also offers the viewer an invitation to read the work. This is frail vulnerable work wearing its armour on the inside.
Cliff Richards October 2015
Review: The Programme by Tao Lashley-Burnley
Upon leaving the final day of the Hanover’s film festival with my a4 collection of blurbs, I feel like an überfan following a band through all their venues proudly displaying all the wristbands and collecting the ticket stubs. A festival of video devoted to re thinking the structure of the artists’ film programme can be. With five individual programmes structured by a number of different curators and artists over five days this festival looks daunting at first. There is a fear that there may be too much information to fence with, that maybe I won’t reach the end, I might lose myself somewhere along the way.
With over thirty different artists involved in all five programmes, the styles and themes behind the works cover a broad spectrum of contemporary questions. Across the programme many of the films are looking the relations between sound and image and the ways they are perceived by the viewer in their surroundings. Using many different methods and devices, there is overlaid sound, dual image, restrictive techniques during recordings and the use of narration as a way to confuse or influence the perceived image. Sophie Barrot’s ‘The aesthetics of losing control’ reminds me of late 60s movies, most notably Dennis Jakob’s montage sequences in ‘The Trip’ (1967), as well as ‘Point Blank’ and ‘Easy Rider’. The piece almost seems to be a look back to those times with a more analytic view of the darker side of those ideas, that perhaps the choices of the 60’s and 70’s have created a time now where control is something difficult to grasp, where the desirable and the dangerous merge into one and nothing discernable is left. Where is the line between the real and the dream? ‘Easy rider’ and ‘The Trip’ are films are about a journey of discovery, looking for an ideal fantasy or the identity of who we are at the core. Barrot’s film, to me seems to have found this place that the 60’s were looking for and after finding what was there in these depths of the mind and reaching the fantasy it unravels into a nightmare. There is a feeling of falling apart, an inability to find a beginning or an end, stuck in a cycle of constant decay, the whole constantly being separated. Unnerving images of forms; shadowed, half naked and splintered as if incomplete appear throughout, reinforcing this partiality and objectification of the form. Endless journeys displayed side by side are overlaid and confused, almost as if these strong images of this discovery now lead us back, slowly into madness.
The structure behind the programme plays an excellent part in providing diversity that would fall into chaos if not for the individual efforts of each days curator to address a particular theme. This wide range of film also prevents each programme from becoming to rigid and restricted, a good balance is made by the wide ranging aesthetics and techniques of the films joined with the curators thought processes and selections. Because of this format the individual pieces support each other in ways that other mediums do not. There is no fighting over space or imbalance that is found between physical works in group shows or even when two video pieces are displayed separately in the same room, each programme blends all the individual works into five larger works that become something of their own but still retain each works individual view. You could be forgiven for thinking that each programme was more of a collaborative project between the artists and curator rather than its submission/ selection format. In all the programmes each work seems to follow from the last, not always on the same line but the conversation definitely progresses.
Wednesdays programme stands out most; curated by Claire Hope and Heather Ross, this days structure is approached from an artistic stand point rather than a curatorial one. Using not just the chosen films but also the structure of the film programme itself to explore its questioning. The sequence of film followed by text, of a salvaged film of a 1988 trade day and the use of one artist film ‘Moments’ by Pheobe Law to begin and end this curated selection rooted the programmes concern with time. The concern being both the experienced ‘moment’ the viewer has of the works and ideas of perpetual presents, where past, present and future are one in the same. Over the course of the programme ritual can be seen as an under current emphasizing the concern with time. ‘Collinsville Trade Day’ – Charles and Jason LaRay Keener, a found film of a trade day recorded by the artists’ father displays a ritualistic moment in time, the fair, the trading of goods and the communal ritual of display and music. This film is flanked on both sides by Nicholas Norcross’ films; ‘Fire Worship’ and ‘Planetary Assault Systems, A Mothers Day Gift With A Surreal Twist’, the former a more primal ritual use of totems, masks and fire provoke ideas of the offerings and sacrifice, while the latter sees the act of mowing the lawn as a modern day ritual no different from the cave rituals of the past. Ensued by Benjamin Davies’ film, which digitally deconstructs an office and then a tenement building. Carried out in the same fashion each time, sliding layers of the buildings across the screen until each is reconstituted into a new form. Presents a ritual of the future, the ritual of death and rebirth externalized into architecture. After contemplating this deconstruction for a while I begin to wonder if in the future this demolish, rebuild, demolish behavior we perform will be looked back on much like we look back upon sacrificial rituals. Something with no purpose other than as an offering to some great concrete king or to appease a god of our primitive beliefs.
After the second day of the festival, the format becomes the largest focus and in some ways separates from the work, the artist films become non-specific visual stimulus that exercises the point of programming, the use of repetition, structure, timing. By the end each programme looks more like a variation of the idea of the programme, like Sol Le Wits cube variations, they contain the same usable parts and the same end object but the subtle changes in how the parts constitute create permutations of the form. I find this effect reflected in the video piece by Kari Robertson, ‘Flexing The Lexicon’ seems to examine the links between language and image within the context of film or moving image. Testing the affects each has on the other reinterpreting what the meanings an image can have and how the detached voice of a narrator or language can further affect this meaning. An interesting and playful battle forms questioning what is leading and what is following, who is affecting and who is effected, is the image influencing interpretation or is the language prescribing what can be seen? Conventionally narration follows the story adding to what is already seen or describing it in more detail much like the narration in the film ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ 2006. The use of narration in Robertson’s work however uses narration to dictate and create the story; the images themselves create no familiar line of story without the narration. The images are signifiers and the narration replaces their individual signifieds, forcing the images to appear as a linear story to the viewer. However, The timing of the narration alongside the image allows a doubt to emerge where the narration sits behind the image. We are presented with the image and then the narration which alters its meaning, film of toothbrush manufacturing process becomes infertile bananas at a disco, with just enough similarity in their shape and movements to reconfigure our thoughts of what we see. The moving images begin to become blanks without meaning waiting for the narration to invest them with it whilst at the same time the narration seems impotent without an image to invest with meaning. Each side is depends on the other to move forward, like fencing one cannot attack without the others defence and the other can’t defend with out one’s attack, the work becomes less about what is seen or heard and more about the analysis of process within the structure
After leaving this weeklong programme I am left wondering what other ways can the structure and display of film be changed and how far these possibilities go, leaving me at a point of further questioning. This could be because I was part of the festival or because this festival was engaging in a way that engenders investment. How can this structure be made unharmonious or engaging in an unfamiliar way, what other structures can be reconfigured and what would the outcomes be?
Review Exchange is a collaboration project between Hanover Project (UCLan) and The Birley Artist’s studios and project space. This relationship allows artists and students alike, the opportunity to review a variety of exhibitions, as well as to provide the two art establishments with published coverage of their exhibited shows.
The following two reviews, by Lewis Litchfield and Samantha Pickett (UCLan Fine Art students), cover the current show, Feel Me by Martin Hamblen, at The Birley Artist Studios. The exhibition will be open for its final weekend on Fri 3rd/Sat 4th/Sun 5th April 1-6pm.
For more info. on current and future exhibitions at The Birley – https://www.facebook.com/thebirleyartiststudios/info?tab=overview http://www.postpost.co.uk/thebirley
[Review Exchange coordinator and editor, Kyle Nathan Brown – email@example.com]
Feel Me by Martin Hamblen
Review by Lewis Litchfield
Upon entry to the exhibition, an eclectic cast of black and yellow patterned objects dominates the space with draping and shaped sheets of glossy, fuchsia paper acting as a comforting colour break in a subsequently vibrant yet modest partnership. The objects demand the space; hoops, tubes and poles, Perspex boards and disembodied chair frames are wrapped with precision in hazard tape, creating numerous patterns in accordance to the tapes’ marriage with the objects’ area and diameters. Sculpture on the edge of flux, as connect 4 discs lie upon a horizontally balanced pole, a tall vertical form and builders’ safe wait patiently on wheels, if only the viewer would accept the artists’ invitation to ‘Feel Me’, to touch and interact and to realise the objects’ potential.
You want to touch, you really do, yet the instable nature and hazard tape heeds otherwise. In a conflicting state between caution and invitation the objects become a Venus flytrap, a Pit-bull on his back waiting for a belly-rub, a criminal that longs for nothing more than tactility and affection; ‘Feel Me’ places the viewer in a disconcerting dialogue between artist and object, between caution and invitation.
A low, droning buzz is present, possibly the drilling of a builder in the adjacent room. But it seems to be getting closer on approaching a form in the corner of the gallery. A vibrating sculpture invites and navigates the viewer closer, like a siren song, until the cause of the sound is identified. A luring object that begs for recognition through sound offers a cathartic release to interact without the anxiety and disconcertion of touching.
The overall experience of ‘Feel Me’ is one that explores the boundaries between interaction and gallery etiquette that imposes feelings of anxiousness and disconcertion. Hamblen’s invitation to not only, physically, touch but engage with objects viscerally creates a tension between artist, viewer and object that initiates a dialogues and creates a severely interesting experience.
Review by Samantha Pickett
[First published by Corridor 8 – http://www.corridor8.co.uk/online/review-feel-me-the-birley-preston/%5D
Crossing the line at The Birley
‘Enter at your own risk’ reads the sign on entering Martin Hamblen’s exhibition ‘Feel Me’ at The Birley Exhibition Space in Preston. Surrounded by black and yellow hazard tape (wrapped around carcasses of metal tubing) the senses are jarred, all is disquiet. There’s a faint odour of burning aromatics whilst, from an unknown source, a clang of metal on metal hammers out the beat of some mysterious industry, evoking the sensation of back yard workshops. Sometimes a dog barks. There’s a lot going on here both visually and audibly, and Hamblen has deliberately made it that way, ‘preferring to err on the side of overwhelm’, with only 6 or 7 individual works occupying most of the floor and wall space. The warning tape covers a landfill array of found items such as chair frames, shopping trolleys, handle-bars and zimmer-frames which are then balanced, suspended and perched. Concealing their original domesticity they become non-specific warehouse hardware with a beautiful but repellent appearance. Almost nothing is soft, all is engineered. The title of the show ‘Feel Me’ – invites you to ignore your instincts and ‘step over’, to reach out and touch me. And as you do so, the humour of the show begins to seep out.
A pink foam back massager forms part of a tubular vibrating sensory structure, large hot-pink sheets of card roll and drape amongst framed images of ladies posturing in leotards. Text typed on yellow card suspended from yellow towel hooks speak of musings, misunderstandings and interactions. (There’s a lot of hi-vis yellow illuminating its ubiquitous counter-productive presence on today’s roads, an irony that’s not lost on Hamblen.)
Expressing a desire to not contribute to the repercussions of consumerism, Hamblen scours the streets and charity shops for his inspiration. He collects the discarded, seeing the potential in the ordinary that’s generally overlooked, challenging you to look differently because that’s where the surprises are kept. Hoolahoops, bungee hooks, household scales, plastic tubing all feature in a unified conversation with the deadpan. We’re forced to consider their value from a different perspective, appreciating the juxtaposition of irrelevance and necessity in the tradition of Duchamp and Bueys whom he cites as influential to his work.
Concerned with aspects of Neoconcretism, his installation celebrates the everyday in a similar playful way to that of Brazilian artist Marcos Chaves. Looking at an objects simple structure and redefining the banal, we are compelled to imagine a distant future where anthropological debris has become nothing but a collection of curious human relics.
Hamblen refers to The Birley as home. His studio is based there and stepping into this small but perfectly formed exhibition space, the sensation that exciting art is taking place is acute. Sharing a recent anecdote he describes attempting to buy a shoe horn from a charity shop which was not marked up for sale. His request was met with consternation and ultimately his efforts failed. He left empty handed. The shoe horn, he reflected, probably could not have been bought for any price… but in Hamblen’s world rules are made to broken, lines are drawn to be crossed and hazard tape shouldn’t always be believed. Martin Hamblen and those at The Birley are leading the way.
Martin Hamblen’s practice is multi-disciplinary, including performance, collage, sculpture and re-appropriation.
‘Feel Me’ Martin Hamblen, The Birley, Preston until April 5th 2015
Review: Still Now Is Then Forever
Written by Leanne Cunningham
Hanover Project presents Still Now Is Then Forever, an exhibition comprising works by artists Andy Broadey and Frances Richardson. As someone who is interested in any work that investigates the ideology surrounding aspects of time and space, I was intrigued by this exhibition.
Entering Hanover Project, I am greeted by the immersive Still (2014), aligned together to form the visual elements of a timeline. Left unmaintained since the fall of Bulgarian communism in 1989, the Budludzha Monument is the central element of Broadey’s photographs. The monument occupies the top of a hill in central Stara Planina Bulgaria, and was occupied by Broadey and his two Russian soviet cameras for twenty-four hours whilst he made this work. The two cameras are captured by each other, circumnavigating the corridors of the Budludzha Monument, which is the biggest ideological building in Bulgaria. Built as a marker to the creation of the Bulgarian socialist movement with government support and donations, the building was made and constructed by the Bulgarian army and volunteers. Due to the political changes of 1989, the state of the monument has since deteriorated. Mosaic portraits of the president momentarily destroyed and will soon no longer be. Deterioration and abandonment is a consistent theme that runs within and throughout Still.
A frozen aspect of what once was becomes more than just a photograph. It exists as a silent page of visuality that metaphorically speaks of a darkened past whilst seemingly presenting an invitation. A feeling of sedateness enforces a longing to stand inside the Budludzha Monument and stare out into the light that Broadey fears to see. As a result, this prompts me to the ideas behind the aspect of light within, the outside world. Is the latter a form of hope for Broadey and the viewers? Does the brightness aim to create a sense of ease? It reflects onto me as an unknown element.
In response to Broadey’s Still, Frances Richardson presents Now is then forever (2015), a sculptural intervention that engages directly with Hanover Project. The gallery is a purpose built extension on the side of a 1930’s renovated factory, which is now a building belonging to Fine Art at The University of Central Lancashire. Shattered broken windows made from MDF and aligned with copper sit comfortably within the space adjacent to Broadey’s series Still. Facing one and other, a visual and political debate seems to exist within the space. Slightly obscured views of the outside word and real life in Richardson’s piece result in the temporal aspects of what the space may possibly look like in the future, whilst simultaneously imagining visions of the past. Do Richardson’s installations correspond to the iron bars and doors that seal the Budludzha Monument, fundamentally leaving visitors to enter at their own risk?
The context of this urban environment consisting architecture, space and place within Hanover opens up a visual idea of Still existing as a silent decaying facade of Richardson’s sculptures. The abandoned ideology of the two pieces existing within the one space beautifully forms Still Now Is Then Forever, with the latter existing as an experience of time process that plays with temporality as what is visible is what is present. Yet this makes me question what is being lost and what is to be gained? A question that longs to be answered as a photograph of the latter would not provide the same effect as to what can be seen and what can be explored within real time. Being present within the space alongside the work results for one to witness what you see is what you get , further allowing one to explore every possible detail with a sense of true space and perception. The photographs become an element of the past that was once a presence explored by Broadey, which then leaves us with a challenging perception. Both, the urban and the new form a desolate condition – a feeling of emptiness.
 Frances Richardson, Still Now Is Then Forever introduction, Preston, UK (2015)
Site and Sound: Acousmatic Spaces and Sonic Environments
Review by Bee Hughes, 23 January 2014
I have recently become acutely aware of the pervasive and inescapable nature of sound. It’s everywhere. Even the supposedly ‘quiet’ room where I am writing this is invaded by the tap of the keyboard, the whisper of the laptop’s hard drive, the muted workings of the central heating and some distant telly noises from another room. Even within my own head, I perceive noise; my own thoughts, distractions, the noise of trying to concentrate. These things don’t create a sound, but they are loud.
I review this exhibition with more than a little trepidation. My usual ‘thing’ is very much visual, tangible – and my experiences of producing and enjoying sound art are both new-found and limited. So it is in a reflective mood that I make my way to the Hanover Project, curious as to the potential of sound to alter spaces and wondering if what Kostelanetz described as the ‘artistically enhanced’ space described is indeed something I can find.
The gallery is tucked away from the main road, a campus cul-de-sac – although also the main entrance way to the Hanover Building. The space itself is light, white and not quite a cube. The tall ceiling fitted with white-glazed windows imbues it with an airy, welcoming atmosphere many galleries do not achieve. Playing through the main multi-speaker system is the barely undulating drone of Colin Fallows’ Tonement I (which builds upon his Colourfield for Strings work). Fallows has described his sound work as a ‘righteous noise’, and the sounds piped into the room evoke a sense of the droning chords of early religious music. Looking up to the ceiling, I am tricked into thinking I could be in a church, not a gallery. The calm, yet densely layered sound juxtaposes the occasional interjections of everyday life that waft through the building. Someone walks through speaking on the phone, another pops out for a ciggie, returns… All the while the sound undulates on, blending in and out of the noise of drills from the adjoining workshop and with the fan above the door – it could have been playing forever, and might carry on doing so indefinitely yet.
The multi-speaker system plays Fallows’ piece on three separate CDs, at three different intervals. So instead of a single immersive piece, the sound shifts as you walk around the gallery. This provides an interesting listening experience, one that is active, not passive, and the piece moves and fluctuates with the listener’s individual journey in space. The listening stations for the other pieces are equally spaced along the gallery wall. The headphones rest on simple wooden stands, the cables trailing down to the individual and mismatched players, placed on the floor. There’s nothing fancy or pretentious about the presentation of the pieces, neither is there any trickery – the source of the sounds is there, simple and unpretentious.
Heading to the far end, the transition from Tonement I to David Toop’s The Smell of Human Life takes me by surprise. The shift in physical space, from the openness of the main space, to the end corner is made more acute by the sudden closing in of space and sound – both literally as you put on the headphones and metaphorically as the noise shifts from calm to something more fractured, or in flux. The drone from outside is echoed by a new quieter one in Toop’s piece, it sounds darker. Perhaps it’s my move to the corner, or the unwelcome memories of public transport conjured by the title, or maybe the piece itself but I don’t feel as settled here. I gaze to the adjoining studio and clock a students’ sculpture of a misshapen, headless body made of hosiery – did it move? – and think it might be time to plug out.
Owl Project’s Flow documents aspects of their tide mill built on the River Tyne, partly documenting the machinery and partly recording the sounds produced. The dripping water, mingling with a clockwork-esque, soft mechanical sound is reassuring, and nostalgic. There’s a sense of being transported in time and space, both being fluid as the water in the machine. When the synth sounds start, they feel familiar, less harsh than those produced by the wizardry of electronic currents.
The balance of sounds within the exhibition is managed well, although the main speakers do intrude slightly on some of the ‘quieter’ pieces. This isn’t necessarily a terrible occurrence, and for the most part creates an intriguing layering of sonic experience. However I did find myself tune in consciously to be fully immersed in the pieces by Lianray Pienaar, John Campbell and Leanne Cunningham. Each of these evokes a sense of place – specific or varied – to different degrees, Pienaar and Campbell both conjuring intriguing snippets of places unknown.
There is certainly no problem in fully hearing Richard Skelton’s Noon Hill Wood. As the headphones clamp down the sound is inescapable: mournful, full and shuddering notes mingling with others strangled and strained. You are thrust into the sound of mourning, of being lost and yet anchored to one particular place. This is the only piece in the exhibition to be accompanied by a physical object – a book. Although conceptually and emotionally connected with the work, I would argue that in the context of this exhibition it is not a necessary addition. The book is something that needs to be taken home and explored, not an object that can be fully taken in on a gallery visit. Perhaps an extract or shorter wall text would have sufficed if any verbal accompaniment is needed –the immediacy of experience and emotion created by each sound work is more than enough explanation in itself.
I’ve visited the gallery before, but on entering and listening it was immediately obvious that the space had indeed been ‘artistically enhanced’. Fallows’ piece in the main and then each pocket of sound you step into in turn elevate the space from ordinary to extraordinary. The high ceiling takes on a new dimension with its acoustic installation – this white space is not a vacuum, it is transformed from emptiness to the oscillating fullness of sound. From piece to piece with each putting-on and taking-off of the softly cushioned headphones I have stepped in and out of places, real and imagined. The exhibition has succeeded in its play on site and sound – I’ve been on a journey without leaving the room.
The Hanover Project resides in a beautiful gallery space a short walk from the centre of town. ‘Ceri Hand Selects’, made of artists selected by gallerist Ceri Hand sits well within an institution which keeps ‘old school’ art college principles alongside a strong contemporary relevance. I mention this idea of ‘old school’ because for me the exhibition responds to a conversation in a lot of recent art that I have seen which through specific use of particular techniques and materials is responding to ideas of craft. Craft, but more specifically what role does craft have in contemporary practice now, and to what extent can the changing relationships between art and craft inform our understanding of what an artist is, or is considered to be?
Let us remember that this conversation between craft and art (or the role of the artist) is not a new one, it can most easily be traced back to early DADA which challenged the assumptions of what art is and who artists are. It is a conversation about the hand or the touch of the artist. The shifting importance or distance of this flows through abstract expressionism, conceptual art and the questioning of visual language of artists such as Jonathan Lasker and Gerhard Richter.
In ‘Ceri Hand Selects’ I see emerging artists who are also questioning the role, the touch or the hand of the artist, who are playing with ideas of craft as they manifest in the re-use of traditional aesthetics (the influence of Japanese ink drawings in the work of Jessica Hayes and Ann Hampson), the appropriation of industrial techniques (industrial signage and diagrammatic illustration of Stephen Moss) and the quotation and integration of sentiments of tradition and heritage (the haunting paintings by Matthew Palmer).
I was taken by the work of Megan Cameron, the simplicity of which I loved. With precarious pieces of cut paper leaning against floor or wall, her work exudes a sensitivity and humble humour which seems to willingly submit and be overpowered by the gallery space. The work of Stephen Moss, which juts out at you with a board made painterly by selectively worn through layers of seemingly industrial paint combines its cold diagrammatic language with the innocence and colour of sci-fi comics. This links nicely with the work of Ruth Tyson, whose image came from a comforting craft based fantasy made out of images of desolation using re-worked jigsaw pieces.
Kyle Browns’ ‘signs’ arrested me, made partly out of panels of canvas that had been attacked and subdued with thick black paint. It spoke to me of failed revolution, signs of protest endlessly re-worked; a sign with a total lack of message or maybe a message of ambivalence. These black squares were beautifully echoed by the mainly black ink drawings of Ann Hampson, whose almost spiritual simplicity seemed sympathetic to a perceived truth of simple but honest artistic endeavour. However, where these appeared seemingly without convention Jessica Hayes’ intricate pen based drawings responded to a thick cultural language of Japanese decoration. They had a flatness of printing and I couldn’t help but see the poetics in the image of a lady whose gaze was turned away from me; her attention was elsewhere and I felt as though the artworks’ main purpose was to reject me and frustrate my attempts at creative or conceptual interpretation. She was asking me to appreciate the craft of the drawing alone. Contrastingly, the faces in Matthew Palmers works were gladly pointing towards me, although their haunting expressions were not there to delight or be decorative. Their purpose was to undermine my confidence again, yet through a questioning but beautifully crafted aesthetic.
There were two artists that stuck out a little, perhaps for their relationship with digital technology. I’m afraid that the scorch marks on the intricately designed symmetrical work of James Bamford is a familiar effect; one that shouts so loudly ‘I have used a laser cutter!’ – when this is used so frequently in greetings cards artists should tread carefully. For me, his design which no doubt had hidden depths was undermined by the overpowering presence of this increasingly common technology. I felt as though I couldn’t ‘hear’ the work of Alexandra Florithes, which was achingly self referential and just not powerful enough in terms of size, material, or technique to compete in the space. There was potential power in the concept of the work, and there was a delicate poetics about the arrangement and form of the umbrellas, but the medium (rather small digital photography) didn’t perform its message loudly or clearly enough. Perhaps the artist needs more confidence in their craft and to exhibit more evidence of their direct ‘touch’?
Tracey Eastham / Images Victoria Lucas