S1 Artspace is currently located within the famous brutalist Park Hill housing estate, looming high up on the hill behind Sheffield train station. The gallery space, which has been converted from an old pub, was recently host to ‘S1 Introduces’, an exhibition of by work by bursary artists James Dixon, Charlotte Milnes, Sophie Robinson and Sam Whyte. S1’s graduate bursary scheme sees artists selected from their final year of undergraduate study at the Sheffield Hallam University Art School and given the opportunity to occupy a studio within the S1 complex, along with regular mentoring and the chance to exhibit in the space following their residency. This scheme is now a well established fixture in the Sheffield art scene and provides an interesting cross section of emerging artists.
This was the first exhibition at the new space at Park Hill, and its concrete interior provides an interesting challenge for the four participants. What is apparent throughout is that all of the artwork seems to respond directly to the site rather than neglecting its challenging aesthetic and historical significance.
Both Milnes and Whyte not only use Park Hill as a conceptual point of reference but actually use debris and elements of the development within their work. Despite a full wing of Park Hill having recently been colourfully restored by developers Urban Splash, there are still many areas in the different stages of transformation, leaving behind large areas of building waste or rubble. Milnes uses elements of the industrial waste in conjunction with a series of digitally manipulated images to form something like an abstract narrative of the space. The combination of the transient nature of the digital image and the physicality of the sculptural assemblages in some way mirrors the development taking place beyond the pane of glass that separates the gallery from the building site. Whyte carries on this theme with his carefully orchestrated assemblages of salvaged items, arranged with careful precision despite the items serving no utilitarian purpose in their current form.
Dixon and Robinson utilise the medium of video to showcase the fruits of their bursary experience. Robinson has created a digital collage that juxtaposes scenes from the idyllic British countryside with rendered views captured on Google Maps. This combination suggests a fragile relationship between reality and fantasy. James Dixon uses his part-time job as the basis for a video that explores his experience working in a woollen mill in Bradford. The hypnotic rhythm of his videos provides a soothing backdrop to the exhibition whilst also a commentary on the act of making, whether that be wool production, developing a new housing complex or producing artwork.
S1 Introduces is now a well established fixture in Sheffield’s cultural scene, their exhibitions presenting strong critical content and emerging talent. All four the artists involved in this round have played an important role in developing new ways of representing visual culture within the city. Watch this space!
S1 Introduces 2016 was at the new S1 Artspace, Sheffield, 3-26 March 2016.
Image: Work by Sam Whyte. Photo credit: Jules Lister.