Everything Flows brings together new and existing work by a selection of artists living and working in Sheffield. Rather than working with artists whose work have an obvious conceptual connection, the exhibition focuses on a more intangible narrative by looking at how the works flow, and in some cases how certain works may prohibit or block flows. Some of the relationships and ‘flows’ between the works are clearer than others.
Looking at the commercial and consumer conscious work of Peter Martin and Victoria Lucas you see two differing approaches that look to similar areas of reference. Martin’s new work uses a method commonly associated with retail marketing, a commercial PA system. However, rather than selling a product the artist adjusts the direction to a different concern. Instead, Martin has worked with a group of young people to record their positive or negative feelings towards gallery etiquette. Their audio is played through a speaker system in the foyer as you enter the main building.
Lucas’ work consists of a series of photographs taken during a journey from a Greek airport to Athens, the focus being the disused and abandoned commercial advertising billboards scattered along the route. Taken at the height of the Greek financial meltdown, and placed within a setting more synonymous for ruins of antiquity, these works seem poignant ahead of potentially unstable times for Britain and our neighbours.
Natalie Finnemore’s new work sits, literally, between being comfortable and awkward within the space. This seems symptomatic of Finnemore’s work generally and it is one of the interesting aspects at play because the work projects a potential use, yet provides no definitive solution or service. The hand holes that have been carved out of the wooden slats suggest that they are fit for purpose, but what purpose is unclear. The sculpture is devoid of a specific utilitarian purpose and is forced to become something else. It is an object in limbo and something that struggles to be compartmentalised.
Everything Flows seems to operate on multiple levels and have multiple agendas. On one hand, the exhibition acts as a coming together of artists all working under the geographical umbrella of Sheffield. By doing so the exhibition works as a talent showcase for the city. This is embedded further since the exhibition and commissions were made possible by a grant awarded by The Sheffield Culture Consortium as part of their Making Ways initiative. The title of the exhibition itself suggests that there is something else happening here, which is perhaps subtler or more sophisticated then simply bringing a group of artists who are bound by a city boundary.
The artworks do, however, relate to one another through the force of the ‘flow’, however difficult that flow may be to define. The works all have individual motives, it would be naïve to think otherwise, but the placing and selection carefully begins to uncover the underlying and less visible connections that take place between the artworks when navigating from one area of the gallery to another. Many group exhibitions offer more straightforward connections between works, whereas Everything Flows allows you to navigate the intricacies of the connections yourself. With the help of a beautifully written text by Oliver Basciano for the catalogue, Everything Flows invites you to pull things together yourselves.
Everything Flows, Millennium Gallery, Sheffield, 7 June – 3 September 2017.
David McLeavy is an Artist, Writer, Curator and Director who lives and works in Sheffield.