“I’m Tired” project at G.A.L, Nottingham

Just off one of Nottingham’s busiest streets in its creative quarter, female collective G.A.L have curated a series of photographs from the “I’m Tired” project, founded by Paula Akpan and Harriet Evans. The modestly proportioned space isn’t at all reflective of the exhibitions visual and emotive impact. The work has an honesty which is rare and moving. Created in 2015, the project formed an online community that allowed people from various lifestyles, all across the world, to highlight and express their frustrations with prejudices within society. Now, there is over 36,000 people on Facebook who are a part of this online community.

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What is both appealing and commendable about the exhibition is its reliability as well as its ability to educate its viewer. Not only does it comfort a new audience, but also invites all to partake in conveying their own experiences. The project is ongoing and to continues grow as it reaches new communities. As part of this exhibition, and others, Akpan and Evans invite the community to have their photograph taken in a 1:1 session which will then be displayed in their next exhibition and online.

Each portrait captures a statement of text written upon an individual’s bareback, alongside it hangs a quotation from the individual – their chance to add a narrative to their statement. The text is reflective of their personal experiences of prejudgments and stereotypes. The use of the body as a medium brings a sincerity and a softness to the work, whilst the additional text is using art as a political platform for discussion and social change.

There is an overwhelming impression of community and solidarity when considering the exhibition as a whole; this is highlighted through their visual qualities. The repeated composition and use of black and white tone unites the collection whilst also achieving a visual simplicity. The simplicity allows the viewer to focus on the narrative, rather than the technicality of the photographs. The exhibition, though labelled as a ‘photography show’ isn’t about the photographs; it’s about the people.

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Love Hours, School of Art, Birmingham.

Including: Amy Cox. Katy Gibson. Georgia Henn. Amy Huggett. Navi Kaur. Rachel Price. Tinisha Williams.

A collaboration of ten first year students at Birmingham’s School of Art curated the works of seven fellow artists to create the exhibition Love Hours. The simplistic title creates a clear association with love, towards something or someone, and the passing of time. Therefore, it wasn’t of any surprise when discovering the several works on show centred on the family. United in their choice to use art as a method of confronting traumatic or troubling situations, the works touched upon memory, and in particular, the loss of memory.

IMG_1369editThe view upon entering the space

Entering the space, the first works that are visible are those along the back wall. These consisted of a textile based piece and two photographic prints. Also within your view is the back of a canvas, placed upon the easel. Whilst at first, the canvas seems a boundary upon entering, once present within the centre of the space, its placement supported the positioning of the other works helping to transform the square room into a sphere-like shape.

The curators have chosen to separate duplicate works by each artist, thoughtfully structuring the layout of the limited space so that the variation in the scale of each piece and the switch between mediums is celebrated. A projection by Amy Huggett had been displayed off centre onto a corner and although this distorted the imagery and would therefore seem an unusual choice, its positioning mirrored the work of Tinisha Williams work. Tinisha presented four glass pieces that were placed on the floor between Navi Kaur’s photographs. Similarly Amy Cox’s and Katy Gibson’s work had been displayed individually. Presented at opposite ends of the room, directed towards the window, and insured that Katy’s paintings were enriched with natural light. The arrangement allowed the exhibition to be viewed and enjoyed as a collaboration of works, highlighting the theme and concept, rather than observing a series of each artists work individually.

Above: Navi Kaur, Tinisha Williams (also below), Navi Kaur, Katy Gibson

All of the artists involved are confronting and confessing significance moments in time that have some form of emotional attachment. Each work is an investigation of a personal relationship, for most, the relationship is with their own family and this is obviously through the use of their identity. Portraiture is a commonality between eight of the artist’s work. However, for the remaining two, text is the predominant form of expression. The overlap of imagery and text is seen in a couple of the artists included, in particular within My mum the lollypop lady by Amy Huggett, who insists that her text pieces are a vital part of her practice, offering a reflective aspect to her practice. Amy Cox has also combined textiles and text within her work. Her text also offers a reflective insight into her recollection of an ‘Anti memory’; a memory Amy claims she cannot recall.

IMG_1356edit Tinisha Williams work in which text has been printed on glass

The dedication displayed through the work was a reminder of the bonds we form as human beings and the impact they can have on us all.

How To Write About Contemporary Art

As I am faced with page 40 of How To Write About Contemporary Art by Gilda Williams, I am presented with a series of points, questioning the role of art writing in a contemporary context. These questions are as follows;

-Does meaning adhere to art, as an intrinsic core buried inside the artwork, extracted by the attentive writer/observer?

-Or is art’s meaning produced by the critic’s inventions?

-Do art-texts -as skeptics accuse- attempt to conjure a kind of spell, transforming ordinary things into precious art through the incantation of special words?

-Are art-writers ‘talking (or writing) artworks into existence’?

-Is art-writing a parasite, a surplus cleaving itself to artworks better off without them?

-Or is it like a helpful companion, trotting alongside artworks like a subservient, modest guide dog?

By contemplating each point, I start to evaluate my place as an art writer and more specifically as a art reviewer. As Williams discusses prior to these questions, there has been a shift in art writing. Rather than a review being a direct praise or criticism, it can now be described as a ‘interpretation’ or ‘contextualisation’. As an amateur writer, I am constantly being asked/asking myself what kind of writing i’m interested in and what my role as a writer is. My current feelings is that I am interested in art reviewing. However, when asked, the thought of saying that I am an “art review” or even worse “art critic” makes me want to cover my face and hide.

As an art writer, I do believe we are extracting a inner meaning to an artwork and to a certain extent, we create it’s meaning. It’s meaning is our own interpretation and is not set in stone. It is merely an explanation of a possibility and can be dismissed by the artist or viewer.

Going back to the title art critic or reviewer and referring specifically to question three; I do believe there are connotations surrounding the title due to specific art language or ‘special words’ used within particular writings. These words add hardly anything to the quality of an art writing, instead by using these ‘special’ words, the art reviewer is isolating an entire audience who are not directly involved in the arts. I believe that by including an interesting range of vocabulary, you can educate your reader and therefore engage them. Choosing the right words is vital to attracting, rather than scaring the audience. If an artwork is ordinary, the text can not transform it, however, it can be extraordinary in its own right. As a writer, it is partly our job to find something interesting about an artwork and in doing so, the text becomes an important document. Therefore, I do agree that art writers are ‘talking (or writing) artworks into existence’.

When trying to pinpoint the purpose of my own art writing, my prefered vision is the last question presented above. Though I dislike the term ‘modest guide dog’, I do like the idea of being a helpful companion. Whilst I believe that art writing should be challenging and critical when appropriate, I strongly believe that it should be relevant and helpful. In many cases, my interpretation of art discusses a personal experience that all can read, enjoy and learn from. It is very much an accompaniment to the artwork, however, it does offer an opinion which has been considered in a contemporary setting.