Originating from a series of studio visits conducted in 2014, Blind Gallery – Graeme Durant at Bloc Projects presents organic, humorous and visually challenging works in an evolving and chaotic gallery space. Immediately striking is the presence of humour; whether intended or not, and the presence of sound. The mechanical motors of ‘Chairman Meow’ and the chemical-like smells emanating from scented wax used in many of the works combine to create an immersive sensorial experience. Spending time in the space also reveals other aspects of the work on display including multiple visual and thematic contrasts; where some elements are concealed, small or not immediately noticeable.
Art humour is often misplaced, frequently misread and nearly always a risk. Blind Gallery – Graeme Durant contains humour that does not always present itself as intentional. For example, the gallery’s location within a community of resident artists working in a myriad of studios affords the exhibition humorous and spontaneous overtones that exhibiting artists must choose to either embrace or ignore. Both Blind Gallery and Durant have chosen to embrace and incorporate these elements into the show. ‘Lovely Bunch of Coconuts’, ‘Dogma1′ and ‘Trifle’ are placed on window sills and ‘Found Slides’ is attached to the windows themselves. The residents and their windows dominate at Bloc Projects, and it is important that the viewer can experience these elements too. These works also offer the viewer a moment to reflect on their setting, and to consider that other galleries, artists or institutions might ignore and cover these architectural details.
‘Found Slides’ is constructed of two slides Durant found outside Newcastle University and another discovered in his studio. Although Durant records it as an unsuccessful piece, the work is crucial to the success of the show. Here Durant appears to wrestle with the relationships between object, environment, viewer and artist, and the work acts as a subtle and concise tonic to the larger-than-life sculptural works set alongside it.
‘Stinking Bishop’, ‘Smile’ and ‘Sculpture for a Modern Diet’ are large both in scale and presence. They are exaggerated forms with brightly coloured, scented wax poured over their surfaces. They nod to diverse interests like Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures, food and the tale of the three blind mice. Their bombastic and exaggerated appearances offset the delicate nature of ‘Found Slides’, and act as visual metaphors for the show’s diverse and divided visual and curatorial personalities. The divide is intended, not based on individual practices, and uses contrasts within the gallery as primary cues for its origins.
This exhibition encourages immersion, sensorial confrontation and contemplation. For the artists this has been a chance to experiment visually and thematically in a gallery space and the results demonstrate many potential new points of departure. The exhibition is exciting and challenging, and the time required to fully appreciate the works and the environment is justified. This is a thoroughly enjoyable exhibition and a demonstration of brave and dynamic choices which benefit from the consideration of habitual surroundings.
Further information about upcoming projects at Bloc Projects can be found here.
Image: Graeme Durant – Blind Gallery installation view, Image Julian Lister, Courtesy Bloc Projects.
Matthew Merrick is an artist and lecturer currently living in Leeds.