Curating an exhibition of eight disparate artists with no common theme is not an enviable task. The curator needs to select art that somehow manages to represent different approaches, catalogue a variety of concerns, remain engaging and interesting in its own right, but still being conversational with its neighbour. There are many opportunities to fall down; wonderfully Eva Rowson has avoided all these pitfalls with the Bloc Projects Members Show. The gallery may be small but there is breathing room between each work, offering each artist a moment to sing whilst harmonising on materiality, familiarity and our rapidly changing world.
Once a year, Bloc Projects’ members are invited to submit existing work for a guest curator to choose from. Rowson’s selection this year creates a snapshot of the thoughts and production methods of artists working across the UK, right now. Even a brief look will reveal that these artists have a lot to say, whether that be Jennifer Bailey considering climate change or David Orme pondering on rituals. Prolonged looking is advised to get the most out of each piece.
Charlotte Dawson’s Encircle draws the eye due to its reconfiguration of a familiar roadworks barrier. This bright yellow, industrial fence isn’t protective like its regular sister; it’s soft, draped up on the wall not to keep us out but to invite us in to take a look at its altered state. On the floor, A word of mouth in plain site, features a blue box with office blinds strung across the centre. As with Encircle, the subversion of the ordinary objects challenges our passive consumption of reality, causing us to ask questions about how we perceive the world.
The surrealism of familiarity also appears in Donghwan Ko’s reformed houses and Jill Tate’s uncanny domestic scene. Both works appear straight forward on the first glance, but on the second nothing seems quite right, unveiling the weight of meaning and expectation we place on traditional domestic settings. Further along the wall, Gemma Mackenzie hangs two white silk sheets from a metal rail, adorned with a geometric print. On closer inspection the pink, red and fleshy swirls become internal organs and the smudges are nausea-inducing splashes of bodily fluid. The contrast between the medically white sheets and the visceral prints echoes the human body in a hospital bed; the blood pulsating in my own veins suddenly becomes much louder.
There is plenty to escape reality too, and Mandy Gamsu and Kedisha Coakley take us there with their unique approach to form. Coakley positions Lynchian creatures on a plinth, shimmering in gold and arriving fully evolved for us to dissect. Gamsu’s porcelain clouds contain uncompromising colours to hold a mish-mash of opposing sensations in one object.
Rather than feeling overwhelming, this exhibition is a collection of open doors that can be appreciated from afar or mark the start of a journey with some of the UK’s most intriguing new artists. It is unsurprising that Rowson’s curatorial practice explores how we work together because she has expertly drawn these varied voices together without silencing one of them.
Friday 19th July, 6-8pm
Free and open to all.
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- Hannah Clugston
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