The second in a triptych of exhibitions under the overarching title of Construction House opened in early December at S1 Artspace, which now sits in the centre of the Park Hill development.
In contrast to the previous exhibition, Order & Limitations, which focused on some of the more recognisable elements of the Bauhaus movement, Leisure Time looks at a spiritual approach to art and design practice. The work of pioneering Bauhaus-affiliated artists Johannes Itten, Gertrud Grunow and Karla Grosch act as points of departure for the exhibition, as each took a slightly more left-field approach to their teaching methods. These artists advocated gymnastic classes, breathing exercises and movement and dance workshops, aimed at unlocking the deep pools of creativity that they believed lay dormant when using traditional techniques of creative practice.
Consistent with other exhibitions in the Construction House series, Leisure Time showcases iconic pieces from the Bauhaus archive as well as new work by studio holders at S1 Studios, in this case Lucy Vann, Natalie Finnemore and Vicky Hayward.
The exhibition feels calmer than the previous iteration of Construction House. A subtle sound comes from headphones hanging beneath a monitor on the back wall showing a new work by Lucy Vann titled Maternal Exercises. This charming and humorous film frames the artist performing “keep fit” exercises under the instruction of her mother, who was once a fitness instructor. The peace in the gallery is suddenly punctured by the sound of a voice reading out a series of numbers. “3, 7, 2, 4…” There seems to be no pattern. The sound is coming from Moodboard by Vicky Hayward. This beautifully complicated work presents a visual and audible manifestation of the artist’s changing mood over the course of a month, each number and colour on the screen relating to how the artist felt at differing points. It’s a subtle, cryptic and vulnerable look at the changing psychological states that we all fluctuate between, and our own strength and fragility.
In the centre of the space lies a soft serpentine piece that’s something between furniture and sculpture. Titled Function: Grasping/Movement Ability Developing, the work is by Natalie Finnemore, who invites visitors to sit on it and make themselves comfortable. Finnemore has played with this method in previous works but something is different here; this sculpture is filled with buckwheat hulls, which are said to offer health benefits and are often found in traditional Japanese pillows and yoga bolsters. The piece holds the visitor, encouraging them to enter a state of contemplation.
At the launch event Lucy Vann performed a reading of short and punchy phrases, many of which were inspired by or taken from dating apps and self-help forums. Her delivery was slow, consistent with her breathing, yet she was able to hold the audience – some of whom were sprawled over Finnemore’s sculpture – on tenterhooks. The performance epitomised one the main intention of the Construction House series, which is to give artists space to expand their work and to experiment.
Leisure Time explores some of the lesser-known teaching practices associated with the Bauhaus, and for that alone the exhibition is interesting. But what makes it a great show is that each artist has expanded their work to take a closer took at how subjects of health, wellbeing, spirituality and, of course, leisure are as relevant to creative practice today as they were at the time of the Bauhaus’s inception in 1919.
Vicky Hayward Performance: Moodboard – Friday 18 January 7-8:30pm, S1 Artspace
Resistance Training with Phoebe Davies and Alex Bowmer – Saturday 2 February 2-5pm, Ponds Forge International Sports Centre
Performance: Confident Public Speaking by Lucy Vann – Sat. 9 February, 6-6:30pm, S1 Artspace
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