Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Diary of a Fledging Art Historian (Part 1)

As the first term at university draws to an end, I am already exhausted with the weekly 4 hour return drive down to Reading and juggling full time work with full time university assignments.  I've already had an argument with one tutor and am still adjusting to the huge differences between academic and corporate life.   My art criticism aspirations have also come to a grinding halt as all my spare time is currently devoted to course work.  I have managed to see Josephine Meckseper at Timothy Taylor Gallery, Phyllida Barlow at Hauser & Worth and Edgar Degas at the Royal Academy, but no reviews on the blog, I'm afraid.

Despite all this, I do love being on campus and look forward to getting down there every week. Art History fascinates me, but I keep getting distracted by different subjects and issues, whereas everyone else seems to be focussed on their dissertation subject already.  At the moment I am broadly thinking about early 20th century sculpture by women artists or the use of soft sculpture by 21st century women artists, but have no idea what the Big Dissertation Question will be yet.......

Anyway, this term we have been concentrating on research methods, along with debates and issues which lay the groundwork for future modules and I currently have a 3,000 word essay on art and globalisation to write over the Christmas holiday - Seasons Greetings!!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Wilhelm Sasnal, Sadie Coles, London (9 June – 27 August 2011)

The cool, clinical and emotionless interior of Sadie Coles is a perfect backdrop for fifteen new paintings by Polish artist, Wilhelm Sasnal.  Displayed on its perfectly white-washed walls and devoid of any apparent cohesion or meaning, Sasnal’s work emanates an air of aloofness and general distain for any viewer.  His debt to Luc Tuymans is surely unquestionable with his use of washed out colours, faux-naïve brushstrokes and random, mundane subject matter (stylistic tools seen many times for many years at graduate art shows).

One of the few paintings with a title is first encountered when entering the gallery.  The Sun is a curiously anaemic painting.  It feels like a canvas on which the artist had begun a painting but then discarded.  Propped up against the studio wall and forgotten, sunlight from a window appears to have bleached the painting with some scorch marks of orange under-painting seeping through.

The pure abstraction of The Sun seems out of place with Sasnal’s other paintings here, being mainly figurative and landscape.  Monochrome or pastel interiors hang beside a brooding landscape and stark still lives, although depictions of mother and baby, either as fragmented sculptural pieces or a copy of a photograph (again defaced) hint at a deeper level of engagement with a particular subject matter.

The gallery handout clarifies his interest in themes of motherhood, the sacrificial nature of parenthood and the exploration of Catholic iconography in contemporary Poland in these paintings, which begins to explain their curious mix of dated signifiers.  It is a mistake though to think that all of Sasnal’s paintings in this show can be as easily categorised.  Subject matter and context seem less important to him than the manipulation and mastery of paint itself.  All the paintings are oil on canvas, the most traditional of artistic traditions.  From his sculptural and impasto handling in the ‘motherhood’ pieces, which are truly breathtaking when looking at them up close, to the confident and bravado handing of simple tonal palettes in Pigsty and still lives of a bucket and sponge Untitled, 2011 and bottle of medicine on a laptop Untitled, 2011, Sasnal quietly and confidently, seduces the viewer with his mastery with paint.  The seemingly random graphic pieces and studies of Seurat also included in this exhibition appear to be continuation of the artist’s declaration of his painterly dexterity.

With a forthcoming show at Whitechapel Gallery in October, it will be interesting to see how his work translates to a much larger space as that exhibition will be a survey his work over the past ten years.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Tracey Emin: Love Is What You Want, Hayward Gallery (18 May-29 August 2011)

I have fallen back in love with Tracey Emin.  It has been a rocky relationship over the years.  Like many people, she first came to my attention in 1999 through the media frenzy surrounding My Bed, which formed part of her work short listed for that year’s Turner Prize and video footage from a Channel 4 television programme she took part in two years before showing her inebriated and barely coherent before stumbling off set.  The image of Emin as the loud-mouthed, out-of-control party girl was born and alongside Damien Hirst, the ‘enfants terribles’ of the Young British Artist phenomenon, unwittingly gained fame and notoriety beyond the confines of the art establishment.

I thought My Bed was inspired - ballsy, daring, disgusting and totally compelling.  I got annoyed when I read it had been the target of protest by two misguided art activists.  I got even more annoyed when Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-95 was singled out for criticism and seen by many as an insignificant loss to contemporary art when it was destroyed in a fire at an art storage warehouse in 2004.

My interest in her waned though as I saw much of her subsequent work as too derivative of other artists – the pregnancy/abortion work too Mary Kelly, the blanket series too Louise Bourgeois and the neon signs too Noble and Webster.  While acknowledging and celebrating her post-feminist credentials and lineage, my judgment had been unconsciously clouded by the adverse publicity that surrounded her.   I failed to recognise the very serious and totally committed artist Emin was, and remains today.

Love Is What You Want totally revised my opinion about Emin, as I am sure it has for many other people who like me will be experiencing her work personally for the first time, rather than from reproduced images.  Spanning a career of nearly twenty years and embracing the full range of media available to contemporary artists, even the Brutalist architecture of the Hayward Gallery, which normally dominates and sometimes distracts from the work in its exhibitions, seems to have come out in support of Emin.  It provides the perfect austere and slightly clinical backdrop for her work.

Dark and disturbing family histories set the direction of Emin’s personal and artistic journey.  In a letter from her father, which he wrote to try to stop her excessive drinking and to which Knowing The Enemy was her response, Envar Emin describes his seduction and loss of virginity by the wife of his employer.  At the time she was twenty-four, he was twelve and a half.

In Conversation With My Mum, Emin asks “what is it that you could live through that you thought I could not” after exposing her Mum’s own history of infidelities, children by different men and her constant declaration throughout Emin’s upbringing that she has never wanted her daughter to have children of her own.  “I just prayed that if you ever did get pregnant you told me in time so we could get you an abortion”.  As has well been documented, Emin was raped when she was thirteen.

It is no wonder then that Emin’s ambiguity and ambivalence surrounding sex, pregnancy and abortion inform and continue to permeate throughout her work.  They still pack a powerful punch.  It is a shame though that from her entire output, these works grabbed all the headlines when other works, such as the family memorabilia, almost devotional pieces (May Dodge My Nan, Wimsey and Emin & Emin, for example) are as equally compelling.

Emin also has a wicked sense of humour, which can be seen throughout the exhibition and which she uses to great effect (Emin’s Army, Cat Watching and Running Naked).  Her most recent work shows no sign of diminished rigor and she appears to be working more sculpturally and monumentally.  I am curious to see how her subject matter evolves or changes as she enters her fifties and sixties as it does she does seem fixed on a specific timeframe in her life.

British pop diva Paloma Faith wrote a song called “Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?”   In the work included in Love Is What You Want, Tracey Emin gives us a bit of each and sometimes both.  Obviously, the rawness of Emin’s work will be not be palatable to everyone, but I believe her artistic legacy will far outlast and outweigh her notoriety and deservedly so.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

New Art MK: Eight Artists from Milton Keynes, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, Bucks (8 July-18 September 2011)

A rarely held group exhibition is currently on at MK Gallery and even when displaying the work of eight artists, it retains its trademark curatorial starkness.  I can already hear readers of the local newspapers complaining the gallery is still too elitist, even though the aim of this particular exhibition is purposely to demonstrate the range of artistic talent in Milton Keynes.  Even so, the exhibition firmly resists becoming too populist and the casual viewer may still struggle to connect with much of the work on display. 

The eight artists featured are all drawn from finalists for the 2010 MK Community Foundation Arts Bursary Award (“CFABA”), which is designed to give an emerging artist the chance to further develop their skills and/or give them the financial freedom to concentrate on a new body of work.  Caroline Devine was the overall winner.  Whilst this is absolutely a valid group to select from, I am sure there are other contemporary artists in the region who are equally talented and committed but who have missed the opportunity of having their work shown in MK Gallery because they did not apply for this particular Award.  Perhaps there is still an argument for the gallery to hold at least one annual open exhibition.  The high standards of the gallery would still be maintained by virtue of its final selection (as it has been from their final selection from the CFABA candidates).

Having said all that, I am very pleased to see this exhibition here and first out of the starter’s block upon entering was Jamie Chalmers’ Spam Stitch series - small hoops of embroidery hung throughout the gallery.  Titles from spam emails usually immediately deleted and forgotten replace usual “Home Sweet Home”-type mottos with amusing effect.

The Cube Gallery was taken up with Caroline Devine’s sound installation Recording Contract Recordings (vertical slice).  In her artist statement Devine says she is concerned with the spaces within and around sounds and that her installations explore the spatial aspects of sound through the use of multi-channel speaker arrangements.  The disembowelled stereo speaker components suspended from the ceiling and unsettling, indecipherable sounds between random legal jargon-filled sentences being emitted from ground level speakers featured here, create a haunting and perplexing installation.

Photography was the focus in the Middle Gallery.  Frazer Waller’s Carbooting series and Stuart Southwell’s Grotesque Identities squared up against each other like boxers in opposing corners.  Waller’s portraits of enthusiasts from all walks of life - those selling off a variety unwanted and unloved paraphernalia and those snapping up the same items, now transformed into bargains and must-haves, easily out classed Southwell’s more laboured musings on identity and Western cultures.

Unfortunately Jason Smith’s video of photographic stills from a 2008 performance piece and his Excavation series drawings positioned between the Middle and Long Gallery, were somewhat obscured on the day of my visit by activities taking place around the children’s art trolley and blocking access along the main corridor.  This discourage anything more than a brief pause around that area.

In the Long Gallery itself Emma Wilde’s charming, quasi-naïve drawings of the suburban environs of Bedford and Lauren Keeley’s contemplative abstract oil paintings confidently take ownership of the gallery’s largest space.  Kamil Szkopik’s photographic portraits, while beautifully shot seem more fashion editorial than fine art enquiry.

Throughout the exhibition, information about the artists was limited to edited versions of their statements on the reverse of the exhibition guide.  While further investigation on the gallery’s website revealed more detailed summaries, it would have been interesting to know a little more about them while visiting the exhibition itself.

Overall though, it was Emma Wilde’s little drawings and Lauren Keeley’s oil on canvas board paintings, which spoke to me the most.  Confidence and authority quietly resonate throughout their work.

Less successful for me was the photography of Stuart Southwell and Kamil Szkopik.  Tackling similar subjects of the conventions of identity within society (and although both are very technically accomplished) the visual outcome of their explorations and over-constructed statements failed to engage or impress.  Szkopik in particular points out that none of the models in his photographs are airbrushed using computer software, but all of them are beautiful and youthful and his compositions are highly theatrical and staged.  They are also softly focused and have filters applied, subtly manipulating the images, which is why I do not really understand the intent behind his work in relation to the rhetoric used in his artist statement.

On 18 August MK Gallery is holding an ‘in conversation’ event as part of its related events connected to this exhibition, where the artists involved will talk about their practices and the cultural climate in Milton Keynes.  This is a date I have in my diary to attend and so may well change my opinions on some of the featured artists once I have heard them speak more in depth about their work.  Knowledge is power for an emerging art critic…

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Then and Now: Graduate Art and Design Exhibition, Banbury Museum, Oxfordshire (25 June-16 July 2011)

I have to confess that my expectations were low when I entered a small, badly lit gallery at the back of Banbury Museum which was showcasing this year’s art and design graduates from Oxfordshire School of Creative Arts.  Fourteen graduates were featured and covered the range of courses at the school - Fine Art, Graphic Design and Illustration, Design Crafts and Photography.

The Fine Art Department was ably represented by two painters showing great promise – Annabel Windor* with her street scenes series and Tricia Brant’s portraits*.   I could see their future work easily featured in the BP Portrait Award or Threadneedle Prize.

However, it was the work of graduates from the BA (Hons) Graphic Design and Illustration course which really stood out.  Olivier Porte’s campaign raising awareness on Alzheimer’s for a research institute in Paris was haunting and poignant and thankfully lacked naivety or heavy-handedness.  His sepia-toned TV advertisement “Everything I ever knew is gone” was very touching and really should be broadcast immediately.

In stark contrast in mood, but by no means lacking in complexity or sophistication, Alix Jeambrun’s witty “Food & Memory” fabric and stitch work and Libby Cramp’s “Souvenirs & Memories” collages celebrating her love of adventure and travel dominated the space.

There was some work on display which unfortunately wasn’t as strong as these artists and are unlikely to progress much further in their art career.  I do not know if the Oxfordshire School of Creative Arts participates in London’s yearly Free Range Art & Design Show for graduates, but I hope that it does because the strongest of these young graduates deserve much better exposure than the Banbury Museum has given them.

** My apologies if surnames are wrong, I could not read my own handwriting on my notes - very unproffessional and embarrassing so definitely won't happen again!

Immortal Coil, Jeannelise Edelsten, Berkhampsted School, Berkhamsted, Herts (27 June-1 July 2011)

Tucked away in a meeting room within the west wing of a prestigious private school in Berkhamsted, where Graham Greene once studied and whose leafy grounds and Gothic buildings would sit comfortably in a scene from a Harry Potter film, “Immortal Coil” is the culmination of a year’s residency at the School by artist Jeannelise Edelsten.

I first saw Edelsten’s work many years ago when she had just finished the first year of a higher national diploma in art.  Her piece, “For the Greater Good”, instantly grabbed my attention and stood out as being far superior to the rest of the students’ work.  A beautifully ugly handmade wooden cabinet with rusting door and what appeared to be aged identity cards, tackled monumental ideas around torture and murder.  Having seen attempts by many first year art students who fail miserably to produce successful pieces when grappling with the duel problem of finding their own visual language and choosing major and universal issues, the confidence and power of execution of Edelsten’s work made a more than refreshing change.  I did worry that her individuality and development might be stifled in an institution that was ill-equipped for students wishing to explore any form of installation or large scale sculptural work and was a little disappointed to see her work become smaller and smaller when I returned to each subsequent end of year show to see how she was doing.

However, her commitment to her artistic journey since that time and her unquestionable craftsmanship which flourishes in her work, continue to impress.  I love her exacting attention to detail, ability to combine materials to their greatest visual effect as well as the level of patience required to make her series pieces and I have featured her work in two exhibitions I have curated.

Equally skilled in printmaking, Edelsten combines the use of the medium alongside manipulating ceramics to explore notions of displacement, which is at the core of her working pratice.  As a French national, she sees the cracks which appear in her work as a metaphor for the resilience she has needed to integrate and adapt to English life.

“Immortal Coil” is a quiet, contemplative exhibition and reflects her total immersion in the School during here residency – its history, its architecture and the lives of the students currently there.  The School’s extensive archive became a rich source of inspiration.  Along with some examples of her preparatory sketches and initial watercolour studies, twenty-three small, square paintings using cloth, casting slip and varnish on wood sat on glass shelves on the floor, propped up by vintage books.  Each painting is a symbolic interpretation and representation of the School’s House system.  House names such as “Loxwood”, “Ashby” and “Old Stede” become codified and morph into organic symbols borne from a combination of Edelsten’s imagination and fascination of genetics.  In some, a heavy dose of word play and humour can also be seen.

The paintings were complemented by a series of twenty-three camera-less photographs using fibre-based photographic paper which seem like aerial architectural photographs and a further twenty-three porcelain objects, further manipulations and representations of the House symbols.

The most interesting aspect of the exhibition for me was how a set of wooden drawers were used to display the individual porcelain House pieces.  The combination of materials and placement and display of the drawers themselves evoked a strong sense of academia, antiquity and a love of collection and conservation, themes which have also appeared in Edelsten’s early work and which fit and adapt perfectly to her residency at the School.

By her own admission, Edelsten’s career as an artist is a constant struggle for time and creative autonomy with the demands of family and financial commitment.  After nearly six years of studying and exhibiting in local galleries and spaces, she sees this residency as an important indication of the success of her endeavours to date.  Berkhamsted School has bought the entire series of paintings to permanently display in one of its public rooms.  Many of the individual photographs and ceramic pieces have also been sold.  Edelsten is satisfied that the body of work she has produced during her residency successfully maintains the integrity of the ideas and concerns which underline her working practice as well as adapting and evolving within framework of the residency.  I am inclined to agree with her. 

Saturday, 25 June 2011

University of Northampton, The School of the Arts Summer Show, Northampton (9-17 June 2011)

It has been said that if you cannot find something nice to say about someone or something, then do not say anything at all.

I will therefore limit my comments to this show to in my humble opinion only a few of the graduating students produced individual pieces which were vaguely original and engaging and have a slim chance of establishing a career for themselves.  From reading their artist statements, most seemed to rehash old ideas and concerns which have been more convincingly executed many times before. The student who appeared to have been given a prime location at the entrance to the exhibition had very grand opinions on his greatness.

Even the staff research exhibition in the Avenue Gallery was an uninspiring affair, matching the atmosphere of the whole campus.

I came away, very aware of the limitations of my own degree study experience but very thankful that I had not applied to Northampton to do it.

Sorry everyone, but that's honestly the impression I came away with.  A very frustrating and depressing afternoon.

Party Pieces, UWE Bristol Fine Art/Art & Visual Culture Degree Show, Spike Island, Bristol (11-16 June 2011)

What a great place Bristol is for contemporary art.  The place has the Arnolfini, The Royal West of England Academy and the wonderful Spike Island (http://www.spikeisland.org.uk/) which held the University of the West of England degree show.  A special mention also to Nails Gallery in the basement next to St Nicholas Market, Corn Street, who showcases affordable art by local artists and offers more to look at than pretty flowers and seascapes, etc, much favoured by many local art galleries.  I left with a few print purchases of my own, thanks to artist Mary Collett.

Upon first glance, the Party Pieces seemed like it only held the usual collection of over enthusiastic art students who ideas were a little naïve and/or laboured and unbeknown to them they had already achieved the highpoint in their artistic career, but scratch the surface and some wonderful work presented itself (particularly in the digital projections and installations).

In particular, ongratulations and good luck to:

Jamie Beynon
Adam Collier
Justyna Kwiatek
Toni van Veelen
Louis Lister
Amy Walsh
Hannah Charlotte Read

Gareth Jones, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, Bucks (15 April-26 June 2011)

Less, much less, always appears to be more with the curatorial team at MK Gallery with the sparse display of works on display in most of its exhibitions being dwarfed by the enormous hard edged modernist architecture of the gallery itself and the under utilisation of the rooms inside.

Sometimes this works fantastically well (Cathy Wilkes in 2008 springs to mind) and at others it challenges the audience far more that it would anticipate during a visit (or possibly welcome) .  This exhibition falls between the two extremes.

Eight small, quiet and discreet pieces are displayed throughout the gallery.  They seem almost apologetic in their placement throughout the building and as this is the first major solo exhibition by Gareth Jones in a public gallery, is at first puzzling.  In fact they represent as MK Gallery describes “Jones’ exploration of the social and cultural landscape of Milton Keynes in the 1970s, approached through memory and seen against the backdrop of political change”.  This information enables the audience to connect more with Jones’ work and see the relation between his practice of making structures and installations, often using low-fi or found materials with his experience of growing up in Milton Keynes at the same time as the city’s development.

I am quite a fan of Milton Keynes myself.  Having moved there two years ago, I am growing very fond of its grids, roundabouts and mad architecture (my own little house is testament to some interesting architectural decisions).  Surprisingly, it is also actually a very green town with vast expanses of parks and lake land.  Its buildings amaze me, so I can only begin to imagine the impact the emerging metropolis had on the inhabitants of the villages it engulfed during its development as well as those people who where brave enough (or desperate enough for decent housing) who moved here over 40 years ago.

As a new citizen myself, Jones’ exhibition presented the opportunity of seeing for the first time archive material of how the city evolved from the North Buckinghamshire farmland.  Today those engulfed villages are now little green enclaves within the infamous grid road system and give unexpected charm to Milton Keynes.  At first you do not even realise they are there unless you happen to take a wrong turn and discover sheep grazing in fields next to Anglo Saxon churches, all within 10 minutes drive of the city centre.  

 New City” 2011, is a digital projection showing publicity photographs commissioned by the Milton Keynes Development Corporation to sell the city to its future citizens, alongside photographs which Jones has found in archive research of some of those citizens in their new homes, a plethora of mismatching colours and patterns in home decoration and fashion.  My personal favourite is of a young family sitting on the floor in their new lounge, the view from the window to the outside reveals just a building site, no fencing, no landscaping, just bulldozers working away.  A brave new world indeed for them.

“Harlequin Box”, “Mirror Box” and “Sliced Cube No 2” all draw on Jones’ memories of public sculpture in Milton Keynes and also seem to reflect again, the grid system of its road networks.  “Harlequin Box” contains the surplus materials from the construction of “Slice Cube No 2” and is as eloquent a statement as the original piece itself is.

Except for the curiosity value of discovering how camp 1970s cigarette adverts of very hairy male models all sporting a gypsy earring in their right ear, the impact of the 12 newspaper cut outs of “Twelve Men” were lost on me.  The exhibition handout explained that “Jones views the Long Gallery as a kind of modern ballroom, in which the scaled down display creates a theatrical and powerfully charged atmosphere, inviting the view to occupy the space and prescribe meaning to the work”.  Unfortunately, this did not translate to me and I feel that by only showing these cut outs in strange blue painted frames and nothing else of Jones’ work, an opportunity was missed to include more of his work, perhaps even some larger pieces by way of contrast.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet, Hayward Gallery, London (16 February-17 April 2011)

The curators of British Art Show 7 (“BAS7”) have announced that their show is recognised as being the most ambitious and influential exhibition of contemporary British art.  With Newspeak: British Art Now Parts I and II  (in which 6 BAS7 artists area also featured) appearing at the Saatchi Gallery 2010-11, Charles Saatchi may disagree with this statement, as might the ICA with its recent Bloomberg New Contemporaries or indeed the organizers of the annual Turner Prize exhibition. 

Also, I am not sure how influential BAS7 is, but held very 5 years it does succeed in holding up a magnifying glass to the wide range of contemporary art practices (as chosen by the curators) and certainly appeared popular, if the number of visitors crowding into the gallery during my visit was anything to go by.

Bringing together work produced since 2005 by 39 selected artists, BOS7 presents the whole range of creative mediums, although installation and video work appeared to dominate.  The curators describe the underlying theme of the exhibition being the ways in which artists “make use of histories, be they distant or proximate, longingly imaged or all too real, to illuminate our present moment”[1].

They also promised that the range of works on display will challenge, amuse and delight.  To truly delight me a work of art has to have the double-punch of committed conceptual exploration and what Grayson Perry has described in his defence of aesthetics in art, as visceral visual pleasure[2].

Charles Avery’s wonderfully named installation “Untitled (Miss Miss finally gives in by the place where Aean sought to bamboozle the one-armed snake by attaching himself to the tree to make himself a larger thing)” dominates the first room within the gallery.  Its size and theatricality completely epitomises a longingly imaged place and associated history. 

Unfortunately, I found many works challenging in a non-positive way and therefore very difficult to engage with.  Cullinan Richards’s “Vertical Plastic” and “Two Rolls of Selotape” installations by the gallery stairwell seemed curiously dated and seemed more suitable for inclusion in Sensation exhibition of 1997 than in the British Art Show 2011.  Indeed, a number of works on display had more than a whiff of Sensation about them, which I found a little tiresome.  Sarah Lucas’s “Nuds” - stuffed nylon tights knotted into biomorphic forms - seemed a complete throwback to her YBA glory years and I have seen versions of Wolfgang Tillmans’s tabletop installation of newspapers, magazine cuttings, pamphlets and advertisements covering subjects which included global consumerism, female genital mutilation, homophobia “Truth Study Center” at numerous graduate shows before.

Steven Claydon’s “Untitled (Trom Bell)” was unwittingly rung twice by visitors (the discreetly displayed “please do not touch sign” was a little too discreetly displayed).  Perhaps the most disappointing (and frustrating) priece was Nathanial Mellors’s animatronic sculpture “The Object (Our House)”, rendered motionless as it is currently awaiting technical maintenance. 

Of course there were many other works which did fascinate and enthral.  Christian Marclay’s film “The Clock” and Elizabeth Price’s film “User Group Disco” both showed the possibilities of elevating the medium from its habitual unfathomable nature. 

Juliette Blightman’s vase, lamp and net curtain intervention raised a wry smile.

Of all the work on display, it was Roger Hiorns’s “Untitled” installation comprising of a black municipal bench with intermittent flame and naked man appearing at unspecified intervals which completely met my own “double punch” criteria. It was stark, simple and beautifully fascinating. 

The exhibition’s subtitle “In the Days of the Comet” referencing the H G Wells novel and Hailey’s Comet, allowed the curators to include artists such as Hiorns, whose work would probably not fit as neatly into their original exhibition theme.  Ossian Ward points out in his review for Time Out magazine that it is almost impossible to fix something as variable and subjective as a moment in British Art[3].   BOS7 has at least captured some of its manifestations in its own curatorial net.

[1] Exhibition Statement by curators Lisa Le Feuvre and Tom Morton, 2010
[2] Grayson Perry during an interview in Contemporary Art Today, Open University, BBC2, broadcast February 2011
[3] British Art Burns Bright, Time Out Magazine, 3-9 March 2011

awful/FANTASTIC! (2007-2010)

awful/FANTASTIC! was a not-for-profit art organisation with I co-founded with art college friend, Laura Jones, which aimed to contribute to creating, encouraging and promoting a dynamic contemporary art climate within the Value of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire (where I was living at the time).

It presented exhibitions which explored and responded to contemporary art issues in alternative exhibiting sites and venues. Our other activities included offering networking and professional development opportunities and events for our member artists, in order to enrich both the individual working practices and overall artistic experience of our membership and increase the visibility of their work.

It worked in partnership with a number of local organisations which enabled them to host their exhibitions and activities.

Looking, Thinking, Drawing, Queens Park Arts Centre, Aylesbury, Bucks (22 September-13 October 2008)

awful/FANTASTIC's second exhibition Looking, Thinking Drawing took place in the Main Gallery at Queens Park Arts Centre from 22 September to 12 October 2008 and was held as part of The Big Draw 2008.

The exhibition was a chance to show the wide and diverse uses and interpretations of drawing within contemporary art practice.  The fourteen selected artists whose work was included, were:
  • Sara Brown
  • Zoe Eaton
  • Jeannelise Edelsten
  • Isabel Fallow
  • Pete Giles
  • Christine Harris
  • Laura Jones
  • Lucy Landers
  • Liz Meier
  • Katarina Nyman
  • Hilary Sussum
  • Cally Trench
  • Georgina Vinsun
  • Jayne Wilton
Whilst it was difficult to determine visitor numbers as the exhibition was not stewarded, we received a great amount of very positive feedback from visitors, members and other artists regarding the standard of work on display and the curatorial vision of the show.

Pavillion II, Buckinghamshire County Museum, Aylesbury, Bucks (8-29 November 2008)

Following the success of their first open themed exhibition in 2007, awful/FANTASTIC! were invited by Buckinghamshire County Museum in Aylesbury to hold a show in their central Art Gallery from 8-29 November 2008. Thirty-one selected artists presented a wonderful mix of both commercial and experimental work which included sculpture, video and site-specific installation. Exhibiting artists were a mix of members already known to us, people joining awful/FANTASTIC! in order to submit work and artists invited from local art college graduation shows, which added to the richness of the work displayed.

Around one hundred and fifty people attended the Preview on 8 November, with an encouraging number of visitors attending through the exhibition's three week run. Sales of work by Carry Ackroyd, Patricia Lynch and Sue Weinstock were achieved and their profile was raised by a number of articles in local press and the distribution of posters to key venues in surrounding counties in order to attract more visitors into Aylesbury.

We received incredibly positive feedback from comments left in our visitor book and verbally from people who were either involved in, or came to see the exhibition regarding its organisation, mix of engaging/thought provoking work and its overall presentation, for which we are very grateful and hope it benefits both us for future events and the individual profiles of our members.

The artists whose work was included, were:
  • Carry Ackroyd
  • Joanna Bryant
  • Heather Burwell
  • Stuart Bush
  • Celia Buttigieg
  • Katrina Covill
  • Jackie Crabtree
  • Zoe Eaton
  • Jeannelise Edelsten
  • Isabel Fallow
  • Mitzie Green
  • Christine Harris
  • Patricia Lynch
  • Mick Maslen
  • Pamela McMenamin
  • Liz Meier
  • Diana Noel
  • Katarina Nyman
  • Rowena Quilleash
  • Jayne Rawlings
  • Melissa Setterington
  • Kay Singla
  • Victoria Stanway
  • Linda Travers Smith
  • Cally Trench
  • Georgina Vinsun
  • Sue Weinstock
  • Rachel Westlake
  • Jayne Wilton
  • Ann Winder-Boyle
  • Roger Woodiwiss

Press Cuttings

Thread(s), University Centre, Milton Keynes, Bucks (1-29 October 2010)

'Thread(s)' was held at University Centre, Milton Keynes from 1-29 October and featured sculpture and installation work by four member artists of awful/FANTASTIC!:

Jeannelise Edelsten, Patricia Rozental, Pippa Andrews and Debbie White.

Jeannelise Edelsten and Patricia Rozental studied together on the same art degree course. During that time they explored similar themes of time and decay in their practices and utilised similar materials. The individual results of their explorations reflect the diversity of visual responses possible by two artists. Patricia's work focuses on topics such as anatomy, self-portraiture, nature and female iconography and Jeannelise's most recent work has concentrated on creating a series of small plaster and porcelain coil pots. These 'thought pots' explore dyslexia and the feeling of exclusion by dyslexic students within the framework of current educational methods.

Pippa Andrews and Debbie White are members of Material Space, a group of artists who have a common background in stitched textiles. Whilst each individual artist continues to experiment and develop their own ideas and techniques, all members share an interest in working dimensionally, frequently producing 3-D pieces and installations. Often large in scale, and regularly incorporating a wide variety of media, these artists push the boundaries of conventional ideas and challenge their audiences’ perceptions of textiles and how they respond to them.

Pippa creates three dimensional forms informed by natural structures and zoomorphic architecture with their undulating planes, structural ‘ribs’ and surface ‘skins’. She uses natural and manufactured materials, recycled when possible and often juxtaposes these contrasting elements within a piece of work.

Debbie’s work centres on the relationship between repetitive processes and time with particular reference to textile construction.  She creates dimensional drawings in thread using spatial knotting, experimenting with form, materials and methods to explore vertical and horizontal layering and the transition from one plane to another.