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Thursday 29 September 2011

Opens Tomorrow | The NewcastleGateshead Art Fair | The Sage Gateshead | 30 September - 2 October

The fifth annual NewcastleGateshead Art Fair opens tomorrow at spectacular venue of The Sage Gateshead. This year the fair has attracted more galleries than ever before, providing a platform for the work of hundreds of artists represented by around 50 galleries from across the UK and overseas. NewcastleGatehead is the largest commercial art fair in the North-East of England, and provides the opportunity to find affordable art as an investment for the feature. This year the fair features an extensive range of unique paintings, sculpture, ceramics, photographs, prints and glass.

In addition, visitors can enjoy a weekend of musical events, an art and food experience, print demonstrations and live street art, while there will also be expert advise from The Contemporary Art Society on buying and collecting art, a busy seminar programme and activities for children.

One of the highlights of this year’s exhibition will be a display of at least six new paintings by acclaimed British artist Chris Gollon, which were inspired by his second stint as Artist in Residence at St Mary’s College, Durham University, during spring this year. Although usually the London-based artist’s new works are showcased in the capital, it was decided that these paintings should be unveiled in the North-East due their intimate connection with the region.

During his time at Durham, Gollon produced 16 paintings on the theme of love, while also engaging in debate with leading thinkers, taking Q&A sessions with students and experiencing day-to-day college life, such as formal dinners and summer evening balls.

Other highlights of the NewcastleGateshead Art Fair include a show case of work by new artists, which returns for a fourth year and displays the work of 15 unrepresented artists from the North-East, selected by top local curators. Over the weekend, Kathryn Tickell, the foremost exponent of the Northumbrian pipes, brings her new show, Northumbrian Voices, to The Sage, while, US a capella group Straight No Chaser will give a concert as part of its inaugural UK tour.

For connoisseurs of food and drink, the Brasserie at The Sage will host The Collection, an art and food event which pairs taster food and drinks with particular art genres.

NewcastleGateshead Art Fair runs from 30 September 30 to 2 October

Further Information & Tickets: ngartfair.com

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Radical, Bold & Experimental Art Forms | Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2011 | Site Gallery | Sheffield

Text by Amy Baker

Established in 1949, New Contemporaries is an important and highly regarding annual initiative that gives art students and recent graduates essential support and recognition at a crucial stage in their development through a high-profile exhibition. One of only two open exhibitions in the UK, participants are selected by a panel comprising influential art figures including curators, writers and artists often who have themselves previously been a part of New Contemporaries, and a rigorous process that considers the work within a broad cultural context. The selectors for 2011 are Pablo Bronstein, Sarah Jones and Michael Raedecker.

While in its history New Contemporaries has travelled the length and breadth of the country, it hasn’t been in Sheffield since 1993. Now, in a particularly vibrant and active time in the city’s history, it is the perfect host for this show of radical, bold and experimental art-forms.

The stand out pieces of the exhibition were mostly video works, including Hyun Woo Lee and his 48 second looped video of 17 times of I hate this job(2011), which seems to capture society’s constant loathing towards repetitive life in general. The video consists of what appears to be a water sprinkler system watering a stadium in alternate directions, with the words ‘I hate this job’ flashing one word at a time at the bottom of the screen. The sprinkler itself is personified, making you empathise with this machine. Another film piece entitled Rewind by Dagmar Schurrer is more of a narrative, with multiple frames of a woman walking down stairs, which is then rewound. He explores the importance of sound in developing a narrative and shows a fresh perspective with this work.

Moving on, Poppy Whatmore's Cocked Leg is no ordinary table; it has one of its four legs on a hinge and upturned, giving an everyday object another form. With her second piece I don’t come prepared Whatmore further questions the viewer's perception of everyday objects. This de-constructed chair frame with brightly coloured gloss paint on the wall is witty, reflecting modernist design. Beside Whatmore’s piece is one by Sophie Neury. Her three Untitled photographs from the series De Arte Gymnastica show different perspectives of various gym equipment. These indicate the complexities of space and its origin to the desire to confront the spectator. The ability of an athletic performer must include separating anxiety-provoking thoughts from their psyche and that is brought to focus here.

Sarah Brown’s four pencil on paper pieces are very intriguing. Each one has a different name and picture: What Happened? is a door at the end of a corridor, Why is it closed? shows a detailed cupboard door, making you think of what could be behind something you don’t know about. People can assume and judge but not really know the facts, and this could be her direction here. Entering into the unknown and Is it a secret? are the two other drawings that make you curious with no way of knowing the answer.

Two pieces by Jonathan Trayte are painted bronze sculptures and are something of beauty. In the Presence of Nature uses gold plated bronze and resembles a tree trunk, giving the impression that nature is precious and that we are all connected to it. His second sculpture The Kiss is a black and white painted bronze consisting of what looks like another tree shaped object at the bottom with two oval pieces touching, evidently like a kiss or a pair of lips. It's a flamboyant and glossy piece.

Encaustic on board with the title Jesus Christ is a piece by Rafal Zawistowski at the beginning of the exhibition. The fact that Jesus has a blank face and a small halo suggests that his face is in the eye of the religious beholder. Everyone has different views on their own or other religions, and so the faceless image seems to mean that it is clouded and a blank canvas there to be created.

Three C-type prints in box frames: Resonanzgeflechte – leibhafer raum (Resonant Entanglements – bodily space) are by German artist Ute Klein and feature two people in each photo with their arms and bodies entwined together. It is a performance of the struggle and love in the relationships between people. It says a lot about the complexities two people can share, and they even look awkward whilst being connected.

The entire exhibition reflects what is current and trending in contemporary art, and with new artists taking to the scene with these fantastic pieces, it’s definitely not one to miss.

Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2011 is on show at Site Gallery and S1 Artspace, Sheffield until 5 November.


Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Cornelia Baltes
Untitled (bird) (2010)
Courtesy the artist

Tuesday 27 September 2011

The Open & Illegible Letter | EJ Major | Love Is...

Between 2004 and 2006 the artist EJ Major undertook a mail art project which involved taking a screenshot of each second of the film Last Tango in Paris (1972) and from each one printing a single postcard. These 7000+ postcards were then hand-delivered around the UK over the course of two years. On the back the artist printed her Freepost Address and ''love is...'' Recipients were asked to respond and return the postcard as part of an enquiry, into love.

Last Tango in Paris was directed by Bernado Bertolucci and released in 1972, the year after Major was born. It was chosen as it is one of the films that Major says "plays regularly in my head. I wanted to see the film as a series of stills each of which would have its own journey, only some of which would make it back to me."

On a practical level the film has been used as an organisational framework around which to engage strangers. They remain anonymous unless they choose note to be, giving them license to respond candidly. Each postcard has its own story, in terms of its place in the narrative of the film and its journey through the hands of the recipient and subsequently the Post Office. Those that are turned then form part of a collaboration, between strangers, responding to the prompt, love is...

Further Information

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Courtesy the artist

Monday 26 September 2011

Questioning Documentary Narrative | Others' Stories | Golden Thread Gallery | Belfast

Text by Angela Darby

Others’ Stories collates six artists’ exploration and questioning of documentary narrative. When two people verbally interact, dialogue can go beyond oral communication; facial expressions and body language become part of the exchange of ideas and the meaning attached to them. Curator Peter Richards pointedly asks: “Can you really tell someone else’s story for them… does truth suffer when it is mediated by a third party?” Essentially the interviewer must earn a bond of trust with the interviewee in order to achieve a meaningful discourse between the two parties. It was interesting to observe what techniques, if any, the invited artists adopted in order to gain their subjects confidence.

At the entrance to Gallery One a large impressive image immediately catches your attention and draws you in. The artist John Baucher presents a series of photographs documenting life for the citizens of Port-au-Prince, Haiti after the destruction left by the 2010 earthquake. In Seeking Shade the shadow of a tree looms, specter-like over a devastated landscape. Flanked at both sides of this central image is a series of smaller photographs, projecting a static narrative, each telling a story of resilience in survival and of determination for the future. And how have they achieved this courage in the face of tragedy and adversity? The artist offers up an insight into what might have been responsible in strengthening the citizens’ tenacity. At opposite ends of the wall, two religions sit together; one orthodox and the other syncretic. A large smiling voodoo priest named Oungan optimistically beams into the lens, his religious deity, a skeleton called ‘Baron Samedi’, dressed in the finery of a top hat and suit sits symbolically behind the priest. In the opposing image entitled 8th Station of The Cross a street re-enactment portrays Jesus’ journey to his crucifixion. The conclusion may be that both religions have played a part in reminding the citizens that through pain and hardship, their endurance and belief will achieve a divine recompense.

Performance and lens-based artist Poshya Kakl's emotive video entitled Textile of Iron is situated in the middle of Gallery One. We learn the heartbreaking fate of many young Iraqi women who have been imprisoned for refusing an arranged marriage. Here the artist becomes an enabler as she presents the detainees with gifts of wool and they in turn present Poshya with their stories as they weave the colourful wool into the prisons wire fence. This unsanctioned act of defiance represents a symbol of inspiring endurance and of remembrance for the incarcerated women. The artist poignantly and effectively facilitates their right to be heard by offering them the opportunity to communicate their feelings toward this harsh form of punishment in a wider context.

Presented on a series of monitors Lesley Cherry’s The Knitted Word Project echoes a similar narrative to Poshya’s Textile of Iron. The knitting circle, which was once a traditional activity among the women in a community, becomes the subject matter for Cherry. We watch mesmerized as hands holding needles and wool work back and forth to create a succession of intriguing words. As the women talk they recall the exploits of female characters that once lived in their area. Cherry cleverly exchanges the sound of the women’s conversation for a male voice-over, spoken in a manner that would have once implied unquestioned authority. We listen to the narrator relaying horrifying tales of domestic abuse and attempted murder in his newsreader voice whilst we watch the women knitting text that relates to the spoken word.

At the backspace in the gallery, we enter a darkened room to find a monitor playing the video confession of a young man who committed patricide when he was just a boy. In Leon the artist Franc Purg also facilitates his subject with the opportunity to relay the history of domestic abuse suffered at the hands of his father. In this quiet blacked out space Leon can privately recount the reasoning behind this tragic act and the consequences of his actions that will affect him for the rest of his life. By illuminating his subject’s ‘set’ with green and red filtered lights the artist introduces a subtle and incongruent artificiality that seems to raise questions over the reliability of subjective exposition.

Throughout the exhibition one is aware of the different forms of communication and documentation employed by the artists to achieve a greater understanding of the subjects’ lives and tribulations. Lisa Byrne’s tense, empathetic and powerful portrayal of the callous murder of two members of the Curran family is filmed as a first-hand account. On three screens family members individually describe the horrifying incident of the cold-blooded murder of the two young brothers. 28th October 1993 is filmed in the family living room; the same place that the murders occurred. As this is revealed through the various versions of the events experienced by the storytellers we become increasingly aware of the whole family’s resilience in the face of this horrendous incident. They refused to move from their family home and have remained there in defiance of the sectarianism that tried to destroy them. Each emotionally confesses their feelings regarding their trauma and at times it is very hard to watch their anguish. Their stories are simply but powerfully conveyed but one wonders if this could possibly offer some form of solace or closure for the family.

Leaving Byrne’s heartrending film installation one is immediately met by the sight and sound of a sobbing woman. Many actors have been employed to convey the experiences of trauma victims and Cecily Brennan’s film Black Tears explores this theme in a striking manner. However, the piece seems strangely disingenuous compared to the harsh reality of Byrne’s subject matter. Paradoxically their positioning side by side may have added greater meaning to both.

Others’ Stories is on show at Golden Thread Gallery Belfast until 1 October.

Aesthetica Magazine
We hope you enjoy reading the Aesthetica Blog, if you want to explore more of the best in contemporary arts and culture you should read us in print too. You can buy it today by calling +44(0)1904 479 168. Even better, subscribe to Aesthetica and save 20%. Go on, enjoy!

Poshya Kakl - Textile of Iron - Video Still
Courtesy the artist

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