X is in its tenth year, annually showing a group of artists from across the UK at the start of their careers. This year the exhibition featured the work of 11 artists, nominated by university tutors and selected by Sally Tallant, Director of the Liverpool Biennial, and Juan Cruz, Dean of Fine Art at the Royal College of Art. The X programme, coordinated and curated by blip blip blip and hosted at East Street Art’s Patrick Studios, seeks out and supports new generations of artists who, now more than ever, struggle to gain exposure.
A striking contraption by artist Charlie Cook occupies the middle of the room. Towering above the other installations at approximately 11′ high, ‘Backflip’ (2016) throws a chair into the air at just the right angle for it to land back on its four legs. Cook describes most of his art as a means through which he explores his inner child, creating wild and fantastic devices he was unable to make then. In addition to a number of sculptural and installation works, X included films, paintings and performances.
Amy Gough’s film ‘Blue Angel II’ (2016) is voyeuristic and disjointed, running through a series of digital 3D models, recaptured YouTube videos and original footage that patch together a nostalgic and dream-like world. Blue hues, skies at dusk and the grandeur of Georgian Bristol make for a captivating film, all derived from initial online research on the Blue Angel sea-slug. Describing the process, Gough states she was ‘interested in the way a lack of direct/first hand access to something allows for one to mythologise’. The film closes with a shot of a Roy Orbison performance, and the almost personified sea-slug seemingly dancing along with the music.
Another film that stood out was Jaron Hill and Angelina Jesson’s ‘Circle Time’ (2017). Filmed in South London and the dramatic Yorkshire moorland, two aliens emerge from holes on the moor, and enter into a world of confused disarray. They watch and attempt to imitate the human beings around them, trying to blend in. They robotically dance in a ballgown and tuxedo at a working men’s club, all the while being watched on a television by an old couple in a London flat. Ultimately doomed to fail, the two become trapped in a bizarre world wedged between reality and fantasy. With echoes of Nicholas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976), the film interprets the idea of hiding in plain sight. Ambitious and absurd work, the artists achieve something of a singular quality.
X, blip blip blip, Patrick Studios, East Street Arts, 12 – 27 January 2017.
Jack Shirlaw is a writer based in Halifax (recently relocated to Vietnam).
Image: Angelina Jesson and Jaron Hill, ‘Circle Time’, video installation, 2017. Photo courtesy of blip blip blip.