Does it feel like there is quite a lot of good art stuff happening in Sheffield at the moment? If the city’s art scene has seemed livelier than ever recently, there are a number of factors to thank. There are new art spaces – Al Daw’s splendid Sidney & Matilda and Gloam Gallery in the city centre; and Yellow Arch Studios' new White Room Gallery and WOMP in Kelham Island to name but a few. The effect of the Making Ways funding programme cannot be overlooked either. Not only has it enabled a number of projects, it has also had an effect that is harder to quantify but has helped to build a tangible momentum. The by-product is that artists feel empowered to initiate their own projects in the knowledge that there is both the interest and support of fellow practitioners and innovative, inclusive curators keen to give opportunities to emerging artists.
Co-curated by Deborah Lee and Myfanwy Williams, 8 Paint at Gage Gallery is another example of artists from various Sheffield locations coming together to show work. The exhibition features contemporary painting by eight artists from three of Sheffield’s studio groups – Bloc, Yorkshire Artspace and KIAC – and provides a forum for discussion and further collaboration. It is highly appropriate that it will be in Kelham Island too, an area rapidly evolving and brimming with creative activity.
Within the vibrancy of new, exciting spaces, there may also be a gradual resurgence in painting as a significant and meaningful art form by both its makers and viewers. Deborah and Myfanwy believe that painting has the capacity to connect with its audience in a unique way. Its mark-making has a directness. The human intervention is immediately apparent. Perhaps most importantly they see this show as a celebration of painting. The selected artists reflect its great breadth; from Joanna Whittle’s intricate and intimate views of temporary structures in imagined landscapes, through to John Brokenshire’s gestural and evocative abstractions; in between lies Mandy Payne’s stark depictions of brutalist architecture in which the concrete substrate starkly echoes the motif; Nick Grindrod’s high-colour geometric work, and Marion Thomson’s thoughtfully-constructed abstractions. Deborah Lee’s paintings are more visceral, with subtle imagery, inspired by the act of painting itself. Myfanwy Williams’s richly-coloured, layered explorations of changes in our landscape contrast sharply with my own (Sean Williams) sombre pointillist-style paintings of mundane scenes. There is something for everyone.
Deborah and Myfanwy acknowledge the hanging of such diverse practices presents a challenge, but they are excited at the prospect and the possibilities to conjure new connections. They chose these artists because they each demonstrate an admirable rigour in their respective practices, a dedication to their craft, and a passion for painting.
John Brokenshire, Nick Grindrod, Deborah Lee, Mandy Payne, Marion Thomson, Joanna Whittle, Myfanwy Williams, Sean Williams
Friday 5th April, 6-9pm
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