i o u a e is a collaborative initiative established by artist and curator Stacey Davidson in January 2017. Having graduated from Sunderland University in 2015, Davidson recognised the need for an alternative, open access approach, giving opportunities to artists of all ages and from all over the world. The initiative has embraced the very modern approach of using web-based platforms to host online residencies. This contemporary medium, coupled with their open call process, allows i o u a e ‘to support the practices of still studying, graduating and emerging artists’.
Is this real lyf?? is i o u a e’s first physical exhibition, again comprised of artists who responded to an open call. Out of one hundred and forty submissions, twenty-eight artists were selected, and each put forward a single piece for inclusion in the exhibition. Of these twenty-eight, ten artists submitted video works that were screened during the preview and are being screened intermittently during the exhibition. All the artworks have been made within the last year and have been chosen to demonstrate the artists’ current practice. The emphasis is on collaboration and working together, so Davidson selected artists and artworks that could produce connections, relationships and common threads when displayed together in the gallery.
One interesting pairing is Megan Smith’s ‘Dinner Legs’ (2017), plywood tables with high-heeled legs, which display the food-like sculptures of Victoria McDermott’s ‘Take a slice out, Squeeze in’ (2017). This semi-domestic arrangement gives a sense of hospitality but with a surreal twist: function versus dysfunction.
Pippa Eason’s ‘Totems’ (2017) consists of a fluffy pink rug with various candy-coloured twisting forms – some look like flump marshmallows, some snakes, some dismembered fingers and others like something you wouldn’t want to step in on the street. Simultaneously tempting and revolting, inviting and repellent. The tiny, shiny pewter casts of pistachio nuts by Corey Bartle-Sanderson add an enticing glimmer, like foil-wrapped Easter eggs waiting to be hunted out.
Colour is a uniting force in this playful collection of pieces, with pastel pinks, blues and yellows recurring in numerous artworks, creating links and lines of connection across the space. In particular, the blue and yellow palette of Frankie Casimir’s three-dimensional floor based work – ‘John & James’ (2017) and ‘Lauren’(2016) – is echoed in two prints on the walls; Joe Daniels’ ‘Wash your Fingers for the Mingers’ (2017) and Corey Bartle-Sanderson’s ‘Bread Gloves’ (2017).
The video works, while displayed slightly separately from the other pieces and only screened periodically, maintain a connection to the rest of the show through the semi-organic, semi-manufactured forms, the juxtaposition of function and dysfunction and the surreal, playful subversion of media content.
The use of this adaptable gallery space is playful and imaginative, with every surface participating; a cheeky tongue sticks up from the floor in one corner and even picture frames become miniature plinths for minute sculptures. The overall impression is of fun and irreverence, with the interplay between the works creating a surprisingly cohesive whole.
is this real lyf??, B&D Gallery, Commercial House, Newcastle upon Tyne, 22 June – 2 July 2017.
Sarah Davies is an artist and writer based in Newcastle upon Tyne.