Urban Alchemy,
AIRspace Gallery

Text by Georgina Wright

Situated just outside the commercial centre of the city, AIRspace provides an encouraging function for the derelict space it inhabits. The principle concept and aims for AIRspace are to encourage and support developing and established local and international artists.

Currently showing Urban Alchemy, a group show that brings together the work of four very different artists, each of whose work has a complex correlation to place and urban landscape; something that is distinctly apparent within the confines of the gallery space, where it acts as a point of regeneration of this otherwise abandoned space. Quite appropriate then, is the title Urban Alchemy, which suggests a parallel between the transmutation of matter and this Urban Alchemy, demonstrating the ability to transform a neglected structure into a space of contemplation and visual engagement. With work ranging from sculpture and drawing to edited YouTube footage and participatory projects, the artists transform their focus to expose place as a functioning set of historical, social and spatial relations.

The work of Madeline Hall explores the idea of transience and sense of place or lack of, through the creation of drawings and ‘drawn objects’. The use of somewhat familiar and yet obscure objects creates an extraordinary sense of indefinability. For me these peculiar and fragile objects generate questions relating to the fragility of boundaries that exist between physical and indeterminate spaces.

Similarly with regards to Urban Alchemy, Eleanor Wright present concepts of city regeneration and the futile endeavour to strive for perfection. Her work presents the edited YouTube footage showing the fire at Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre in Baku during 2012. While essentially the damage caused by the fire was only superficial the basic iconic statement of revival and flawlessness was tainted. Wright has conveyed the idea that as a result of viral Internet trends, the damaging images of the blaze were distributed globally in minutes, documenting the damage and permanently securing it online.

The work of Alfie Strong entitled Stationed after millennia shifting seven hundred and fifty miles on ancient sheets of ice, presents an alchemical association by referring to the glacial period, presenting ideas of the physical mutability of the land. Minimalist sculptures partly made from carbon, which I consider to represent both the natural forms positioned within the landscape and the material that forms the basis of all known life. Provoking questions of development and evolution both biological and man-made.

The works by Andrew Smith appear to depict ideas concerning urban space and instigate an exploration into how urban space is regarded, how sculpture, structures and society become incorporated and perhaps overlooked within the urban environment.

Although superficially this exhibition may not be the most visually encouraging nor some of the ideas as obvious as some would like. However I find the ambiguity and indistinct nature of the exhibition to be critical to the enquiry of thought, particularity when we are so often bombarded with obvious and vulgar meanings, instructing our opinions. Nonetheless the concepts of regeneration and Urban Alchemy are clear, and certainly provokes further questioning on how urban space is utilised.

Urban Alchemy continues at AIRspace Gallery, Liverpool until 1 April 2014.

Georgina Wright is a writer based in Liverpool.

Image: Alfie Strong, The Executioner Executes Himself (Installation View) 2013

Published 28.03.2014 by Lauren Velvick in Reviews

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