Saturday, 15 August 2015

MK Calling 2015, MK Gallery (3 July-6 September 2015)

MK Calling 2015 Artists
I love that I have a contemporary art gallery in my home town and only have to jump in my car on a Sunday and in less than ten minutes can visit an exhibition space dedicated not only to national and international artists, but also showcases the local artist community.  I shall miss such Sunday excursions when MK Gallery closes at the end of this exhibition for its two year major expansion.  It is perhaps fitting then that this show looks to the local artist community, bringing together around seventy artists from an open call, as the expansion will be benefit not only them, but all who live in and around Milton Keynes and support and enjoy all types of contemporary art.
There were two things I particularly liked about this exhibition.  The first, and I do with all the group shows held at MK Gallery, was that the sheer number of artists included meant that each of its three rooms were filled with much more work than its solo artist exhibitions.  This may, of course, seem like a an obvious (and nonsense) observation to make, but sometimes the sheer size of these three rooms nearly always overwhelm the work on display when by one artist as the curation seems to always lean towards the less is more thinking, which inevitably leaves this viewer wanting to see more.
The second interesting point was that the selection committee had chosen work by amateur artists as well as graduates and established artists, a move rarely made by such committees.  The information text by each piece gave no clues to distinguish amateur from professional, but the inclusion of their dates of birth did, as of course did comparing the individual pieces especially when work of similar genres were hung relatively close together.  I could hazard a guess as to which was which as some naïve style paintings and sculpture looked far less accomplished than others and I really didn’t like them.  It would though, be unkind to name specific artists because (a) people far more qualified than I chose to include them; (b) my view is entirely subjective; and (c) I could be completely wrong in my dismissal of individual artistic talent and achievement against any formal training, especially if any of the artists whose work I did particularly like are indeed amateurs!  I suspect this blurring of lines of judgment was exactly why they were included.
The stand out pieces for me were Cally Shadbolt’s beautiful and serene plaster sculptures Holder (2013), Artemis (2014) and Ornament (2014) and Yannik Perichon’s Two Thousand and Five Bends (2009).  Both artists used materials which engage both the visceral and the cerebral.  The local connection in Perichon’s installation, a collection of hundreds of molten metal and glass fragments from a car that had been set on fire in Furzton Lake, was particularly fascinating.  When examined up close, each tiny piece took on a jewel-like appearance.

Two Thousand and Five Bends (detail), (2012-15), Yannick Perichon
My favourites were not combined to sculptural work.  Mary Barnes’ oil paintings and Arianne Wilson’s drawings also drew me to view repeatedly, for very different reasons.  Barnes’ haunting still lives harked back to a style reminiscent of early twentieth century modernist traditions, while Wilson’s cartoon-like and self-reflective drawings continued the post-feminist mantra of the personal being the political.  Both showed total commitment to their practice.

Self-Discovery, Self-Loathing, Self-Acceptance (2014), Arianne Wilson

Of all the work included in this exhibition, a nearly-missed collection of tiny mixed-media drawings, Compilation (2012-2015) by William Lindley remained in my thoughts for the longest.  It   an exquisite collection of small drawings and print works reflecting Lindley’s overall practice of investigating and reimagining notions of place and described by MK Gallery as combining traditional techniques with contemporary processes.  It is again the combination of the visceral and the cerebral by an artist, which Lindley did so well here and which is always my preferred type of contemporary art.


Compilation [detail] (2012-15), William Lindley