Winter is on its way, but Sheffield’s cultural corridors offer good incentive to brace the wind and rain. Its full calendar of exhibitions speaks volumes about the city’s burgeoning art scene and its place in contemporary Britain, engaging with timely and relevant political discourse, technology, and young ambition in its re-used and revitalised spaces. The city itself is going through an exciting period of change under the progressive leadership of Lord Mayor Magid Magid. The old Sheffield of The Full Monty, liquorice, empty industry, and the spectre of dilapidated Brutalist social concerns, is fading. However, where other cities level and build anew, Sheffield is becoming an inviting patchwork of plurality, where the old is reimagined and reinvigorated. Murals are everywhere, and the blend of brick, iron, and stone conveys innovation as well as warmth and character. The current spate of exhibitions reflects this energy, with new work and refurbished spaces across Bloc Projects, Yorkshire Artspace Persistence Works, Site Gallery and S1 Artspace (among others not covered here).
Rachel Adams: Lowlight, bloc projects
Housed in an old tuning fork factory, bloc projects comprises studios and dedicated gallery space. The organisation is focussed on its relationships with artists at key stages of their careers. For what is a relatively small space, the gallery and its director David McLeavy have ambitions beyond workspace provision; they are invested in intergenerational engagement, professional development, participatory learning and developed relationships between practitioner, institution and public. On the verge of a week-long interchange in Bergen with artists and fellow institutions, Bloc was happy to discuss their current solo show of Glasgow-based Rachel Adams work, Lowlight. Running parallel to a partner exhibition at David Dale Gallery, Glasgow (titled Noon, 15 Sept-20 Oct), Adams interrogates our relationship to technologies, questioning our comprehension of the structures and implications this entail. Remediating the natural and synthetic, her work includes heavily fabricated acrylics and hand made textiles. The main focus is a series of light fittings across differing planes of screen printed acrylic shapes in a cabbage-leaf (‘Lowlight’, 2018). The precise machining of the fittings show Adams’ knack for seeing the mechanical in natural formations, evoking nature’s own industriousness.
Lowlight runs until 27 October.
Mir Jansen: At Your Service, Yorkshire Artspace Persistence Works
Jansen’s exhibition, part of the Making Ways programme, deals with the fallout from Brexit and its impact on European workers within Sheffield Teaching Hospitals. Jansen, who is Dutch and has lived in the city for thirty-one years and held roles in both arts and health industries, interrogates the NHS and its precarious future. Interviewing eleven EU nationals, Jansen is interested in the use of the NHS as a bargaining chip during the referendum and the unstable negotiations followed the leave vote. The sense of belonging in her work, and particularly to a politicised event that has not only festered in the form of populist stereotypes, misguided notions and unwarranted attacks on immigrants and workers in the UK, effectively underlines the social and cultural impact of the decision. Prioritising the voices those in the midst of this upheaval, interviews have been transcribed onto meticulously painted cameos and pendants, each representing themes and issues raised in the interview. On the opposing wall, Jansen has re-appropriated the NHS set of conventions (the only public body in the UK to have such) in line with rights to free-information and transparent decision-making in the wake of the leave’s campaign of misdirection and xenophobia. At Your Service is a provocative experience that invites further examination of the ground-level repercussions of leaving the EU, and the need to retain the NHS as a functional and inclusive institution.
Liquid Crystal Display, Site Gallery
Curated by Laura Sillars with Angelica Sule, Liquid Crystal Display exemplifies Site Gallery’s newly expanded space. The extension more than triples its interior dimensions with a large gallery and project space. Anna Barham’s ambitious display structure, ‘Crystal Fabric Field’ (2018), houses works that explore the wondrous dimension between our present technologies of LCD displays, lasers, and touch-screens and the embodied power of crystals, geodes, and the Earth’s geology. The intersection between science and art and the mystical properties of crystals underpin many of the works on display (both historical and contemporary, some consisting of collections rather than artworks), where harmonies are achieved between scientific formulae and computer technology, graphics and microscopic structures, the solid and ephemeral. Meticulously designed presentation spaces and cabinets sits snugly within Barham’s structure. With its angles jutting out into the gallery space, the structure replicates the lines of crystals and stones placed throughout, and ensconcing a number of AV works. Ann Liselgaard’s video ‘Crystal World (after J.G. Ballard)’ (2006) benefits greatly, shown at an angled perspective in black and white. LCD is a show that will appeal to many, offering a spectrum of interpretations; the artefacts span archaeology, geology, technology, virtual worlds, mathematics, nature, technology, and human evolution. Further references to the work of John Ruskin, J.G. Ballard and Robert Smithson contribute to the show’s compelling vision.
LCD runs until 27 January 2019.
Construction House, S1 Artspace
Kicking off a six-month programme of commissions, exhibitions and events, Order & Limitations showcases creative possibilities in response to Bauhaus teachings by Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer, and Anni Albers. Disseminating patterns, rules, sequences, and new interpretations of the Bauhaus’ pedagogical methods across ceramics, painting, sculpture, and sound installations. The space is littered with creative expressions that would have made the Bauhaus masters proud. Clarkson’s mimetic sculptures casted from ready-made Ikea waste baskets sit in contrast to the cardboard-box nets strewn across the gallery’s floorspace, referencing mass-production and the effortless simplicity of design. The decision to revisit the Bauhaus strikes strikes an interesting cord; Park Hill’s transformation from a failed monument of social housing to a privatised commodity sits interestingly against S1’s cohort of young, progressive creatives. Their voices reimagine the engrained consciousness within their Brutalist surroundings; using their position high up on the hill to integrate, create and explore. Not only does Order & Limitations lay a solid foundation for the next six months of events and exhibitions, but makes inspiring connections between the Bauhaus and Park Hill’s growing artist community.
Order & Limitations runs until 24 November; Construction House until April 2019.
Louis D’Arcy-Reed is a writer based in Sheffield.