Magazine: Issue 16
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Review: Sleight
Review #1: SLEIGHT | Candida Powell-Williams Lewisham Art House | 29/08/12 – 09/09/12 www.candidapowell-williams.com Coming at the end of her year long graduate studio award at Lewisham Art House, in SLEIGHT Candida Powell-Williams asks us to stop and give our hands the attention they deserve. The central work within the show is a large vertical partial cylinder you step into the centre of. Within its red interior walls, you are surrounded by many pairs of white gloved hands: grabbing, poking, holding, grasping, weighing, pointing, beckoning, even crossing fingers. These hands, but equally our own hands, carry so much potential for meaning. The slightest altering of the position of just a few fingers can radically change what a gesture will be understood as, and even the most minimal active movement is inscribed with meaning which often crosses languages and cultures. Candida Powell Williams ‘Sleight’ (2012) Detail In presenting just the hands, gloved in white and cut off at the wrists, Powell-Williams allows us to focus in on them without distraction. But is there also an element of sadness, frozenness. So many of these gestures demand movement, but the hands remain melancholically still. A few of the gloves even hang limp and empty. According to the press release performers hidden within the cylinder at times bring these limp hands to life, an additional element which would have given something more to the work, but at the expense of this pervading sense of sadness. Candida Powell Williams ‘Sleight’ (2012) Detail For all that being monochrome white removes the physical distractions of flesh and bone from the frozen gestures though, it envelops the hands in a literal and metaphorical glove of associations. Magician or crime scene? Performance or lab? Aside from the vital role our hands play communicating and projecting ourselves outward, they are also a key means of bringing things inward, of experiencing the world through physical touch. Physical touch seems central to the other works on display in SLEIGHT: strange tool-like objects, but very overtly hand constructed in clay, or covered by crinkly plastic. As well as being hand made, they’re also quite clearly for hand use, though precisely for what purpose remains ambiguous. And then a distinctly unambiguous phallus juts out from the wall. Is this a joke Candida-Williams is sharing with us? Something else to do with one’s hands? Some of those hand gestures the white gloves were making didn’t look so innocent either… Image: Candida Powell Williams ‘Sleight’ (2012) Installation View Heading back into the main room, it is the large vertical cylinder itself which brings the show together. Stepping inside it brings to mind something medical; perhaps one of those terrifying ‘iron lungs’ used to treat polio and other forms of paralysis. And this realization throws SLEIGHT into stark light: we really do underappreciate our hands, how much would we be missing out on if, God forbid, they were to be paralyzed like the frozen ones around us? Adam Walker www.adamwakerart.co.uk
Review No 2: Jerwood Drawing Prize 2012
Review #2: Jerwood Drawing Prize 2012 Jerwood Space, 171 Union Street, SE1 OLN 12/09/12 – 28/10/12 28/09/12 Jerwood Drawing Prize: SLAM Last Fridays Event – Meet the Artists 18:30 – 20:00 The annual Jerwood Drawing Prize has returned to SE1, never afraid to move with the medium’s ever expanding scope this year’s selection of 78 works was chosen from a submission of almost 3000 entries. The shortlist includes artists at all stages of their careers from new graduates to well established artists. SLAM’s Rachel Price reviews this year’s selection: Navigating this year’s shortlist it appears to have quite a restrained feel at first. The grid seems to feature highly, favouring abstract minimalism and a clean precision over the gestural or narrative. Rebecca Kunzi’s Blade & Chalice a nod to op art in a retro orange & black, pain stakingly executed in pen, despite its references the work appears strangely new. Linda Antalova’s other worldly elaborate scaffold type drawing ‘unfolding’ demonstrates an undeniable skill but still contributes to the clinical feel of this selection. Simon Parish also employs an opie-esque reductionism in his work. Image: Linda Antatalova ‘Unfolding’ (2012) Linda Antatalova ‘Unfolding’ (2012) - Detail Perhaps this leaning toward precision and rigidity is an attempt for the artists to dissociate the medium as a merely preparatory process, and give it the status it deserves as a discipline in its own right. However, drawing has a frankness and directness that often painting and sculpture sacrifice in favour of pretension, a feature of the medium that should be embraced rather than rejected. This is why sculptors’ drawings are often such a joy, they embody the problem solving process, you can see the cogs churning and the sketchbook is a place where the imagination can run riot before inevitably practical considerations reign supreme. For the viewer, drawing often provides an excellent opportunity to get inside the head of the artist. Katie Aggett’s ‘N1C 4TB, W10 5UU’ encompasses this sculptural quality. Although the title would suggest the works had been observed from the urban landscapes of the respective postcodes the work has an undeniable affection for the 3D that comes from direct manipulation of the materials rather than mere observation, giving the work an edge over its grid like counterparts. Of course there are other works that have spilled out of the 2D among the selection: Student prize winner Min Kim’s piece ‘Waiting’ employs a stack of 830 sheets of paper with a balloon drawn in conte throughout that appears to have seeped through the stack (gone down like a lead balloon?) there is certainly a weight about the work. Min Kim ‘Waiting’ (2011) Stretching the limits of the humble pencil: Aishan Yu’s ‘Others 2’ is a feat of photorealism which ignites a disbelief in the viewer, likewise Tanya Wood’s’ ‘Pillow’ is subtly effective piece employing a skilled, light pencil technique capturing a sense of calm that the object itself never fails to deliver. Tanya Wood ‘Pillow’ (2012) Surprisingly, it was largely the animation works that best encompassed the core of the discipline of drawing. Stefan Gant’s ‘Crossing the Line’ a subtlety hilarious video work featuring the voice of an bumbling middle American pastor attempting to enthuse his congregation with some incoherent speech employing the incessant repetition of the ineffectual analogy of ‘crossing the line’, meanwhile the artist attempts to convey the meaning of the nonsensical speech with pencil and paper. A mess of miscommunication and frustration spills onto the page. The work highlights the disparity that exists between language, thought and interpretation and in turn, the very reason drawing even exists, a process as old as mankind – as a mode of communication and inspiration and a universal language in its own right. Gant’s work is a stand out piece, not only for providing some comic relief but for tapping into these basic drives of drawing activity in a highly accessible and succinct way. Sarah Kate Wilson ‘Party Hat’ (2011) Whilst Sarah Kate Wilson’s ‘Party Hat’ provides an energetic interlude; looking like clown road kill the work appears more the result of chaotic trial and error than precise planning, leaving the viewer reeling in the chaotic events that may have lead up to this moment. Wilson has a keen eye for the absurd and a confidence in execution that makes for a stand out work amongst the selection. A similar visual wit turns the pages of Judith Alder’s sketch book in ‘An unhealthy obsession’ into the perfectly parted hair of a 50’s gent (perhaps). Judith Alder ‘An unhealthy obsession’ (2011) There is a trend for quasi-scientific documenting in drawing which is reflected in the selection, the examples here seem to imitate the like of Charles Avery or Mark Dion who lead the way in this sub category of drawing. Ruth Simmons’ ‘Phenotype’ or Elizabeth Butterworth’s ‘King Bird of Paradise’ don’t quite have the frantic obsession, imagination or thirst that epitomises this style, sitting in the shadow of these trailblazers and inviting unavoidable comparison to these masters. It would seem the most effective works are produced by the artists who aren’t precious about the medium, the artists who identify the scope of drawing and push its boundaries and its crossovers whilst identifying the core drives which make it such a persistent human activity: The animations of Stefan Gant and this year’s prize winner Karolina Glusiec both prime examples, both providing a much needed human touch. The possibilities are endless for the process of drawing and it continues to be a medium in which artists’ can explore their ideas with freedom and inventiveness in all its manifestations. Trying to define what constitutes drawing is becoming increasingly difficult, but the ambiguity should be embraced if it encourages such diversity in drawing practice. Despite an initial cold shoulder, the selection won me over – certainly an autumn must see. Rachel Price Exhibition continues until 28th October 2012 at Jerwood Space, then touring to venues across the UK including the new Jerwood Gallery, Hastings and mac, Birmingham.
Spotlight: Block 336
GALLERY SPOTLIGHT: BLOCK 336 336 Brixton Road | SW9 7AA www.block336.com Our gallery spotlight this month is BLOCK 336, an artist-led gallery that launched in March 2012 with its inaugural exhibition ‘1’. SLAM’s Rachel Price interviews resident BLOCK 336 artist Jane Hayes Greenwood to get under the skin of South London Art Map and Brixton’s newest edition: RP: Hello Jane and BLOCK 336! Many thanks for speaking with us about your new venture. BLOCK 336 has only been up and running for a few short months, with your third exhibition in the offing, what made you and your fellow resident artists want to open your own gallery space? JHG: Xabier and I recognised the potential of the underused basement after organising a show here previously. The Manager of the building shared our enthusiasm. Alex, Rob and Lucie joined us in with the common objective of making the idea a reality and by Christmas 2011 we had constructed the gallery, workshop and studios. We set up Block 336 to create opportunities to work with both emerging and established artists and curators, to engage with and contribute to contemporary discourse. ‘1’ BLOCK 336 inaugural exhibition RP: How are you finding running your gallery and associated projects in Brixton? JHG: It has been great so far. The people who work in the building have been fantastic. We have received lots of support, not just locally but from City & Guilds of London Art School, University of the Arts London, other galleries, journalists and collectors. People have responded very well and we have been told that we have brought something unique and very positive to Brixton. RP: You have five resident artists at BLOCK 336: Xabier Basterra, Alex Gough, Lucie Pardue, Robert Bell and yourself. How is the running of the space arranged between its resident artists? Are you all involved? JHG: We are all involved. Block 336 has developed fairly organically as have the roles and responsibilities. In some cases our individual skills and experiences seem suited to specific tasks. We also work closely with Ric Bell our graphic designer. RP: Do you think the rise of the artist run space is the future of galleries? That ‘cutting out the middle man’ is the way forward? Or do you think the traditional artist – curator – dealer – gallery relationship needs to be preserved or is there a place for both in the market? JHG: There is definitely space for both. The rise of the artist-run space is perhaps a response to a market that can be selective and difficult to penetrate. The artist-run space is a forum in which artists can explore and push their practice, within a supportive structure that offers critical discourse and isn’t reliant on the commercial market. RP: Alongside your co-management of the gallery you are also a practicing artist, how do you balance your commitments? JHG: Having a studio next to the exhibition space means that I am able to continue with my practice alongside the day to day running of the gallery. Managing the gallery means that I am regularly coming into contact with artists, curators and people with a real interest in art and the discussions that result from those meetings are very valuable. RP: Your exhibition space is fairly generous at 450 sq metre warehouse style space sporting its original 60’s cooling system for the first generation computers used by the previous tenants, was it a conscious decision to maintain the original features of the space rather trying to approximate a ‘white cube’? JHG: Yes, it was definitely a conscious decision to retain the original features. We were never really going to have a ‘white cube’ because of the industrial nature of the building but you work with what you have. Block 336 is closer to the Tate Tanks than Gagosian. Features such as the cooling system are the remains of what was at one time cutting edge technology. It looks to us now as rather rudimentary; simple boxes with lights that have the potential to flicker on and off, connected up to a network of pipes. It is a monument to the place’s history and has great potential for artists to make work that is site-responsive 1' BLOCK 336 inaugural exhibition RP: Mike Ballard exhibited with BLOCK 336 for your last exhibition; can you tell us a little about what he put on and how you came about selecting him for the show? JHG: Alex has known Mike for a number of years. We knew after previous projects such as ‘The All of Everything’ at the Arts Gallery that Mike would be capable of taking on and realising the potential of the main exhibition space. Our initial discussions revolved around the idea of a video installation. Working closely with Mike over a number of weeks, the project resulted in a powerful, immersive and very seductive 5 channel video installation. Having no natural light gives us complete control of the environment, which makes it a great space to show moving image. Mike Ballard ‘I.D.S.T.’ @ BLOCK 336 RP: What do you look for when selecting artists to exhibit? What makes BLOCK 336 unique? JHG: We want to work with artists and curators who are excited by the space. Integrity and commitment to a project is essential. It is important to be ambitious and to keep things fresh and I think we are in a fairly privileged position in that we can do this. RP: Can you tell us a little about your upcoming exhibition ‘Hair of the Dog’? JHG: For 'The Hair of the Dog' we have been working with Reece Jones, artist and co-founder and curator of the former artist-run space 'Rockwell' which was based in Hackney. It was the history of the building that struck Reece when we discussed working together. The building's trajectory spans from being used as a computer centre Coutts Bank, to a period in the late 80s, early 90s when it was unoccupied. Reece picked up on the stories about the illegal parties that were taking place there at this time. So responding to this, 'The Hair of the Dog' navigates the detritus of parties just ended or evokes the utopian vision of a liberated or bohemian social past. KIERA BENNETT, DAN COOMBS, SAM DARGAN, SEAN DOWER & GUY BAR AMOTZ, LOUISA DUROSE and DAVID KEFFORD have made work that reflects on our habits, our ideals and misdemeanors, our perversions, pretensions and cultural identities. The Private View is on the last Friday of the month, 28th September from 6 - 10pm. There is more information on the artists on our website www.block336.com and on 19th October we will host a panel discussion where the themes of the show will be discussed in relation to the practices of the artists involved. RP: Many Thanks Jane & BLOCK 336, and welcome to SLAM! Rachel Price
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