Shuttered: Short Reflections on Closed Exhibitions

One of our fundamental objectives at Corridor8 is to document and archive contemporary art and cultural activity in the North of England, and with the unprecedented but necessary closure of galleries over the past week we’ve wanted to make good use of our position as a mainly digital organisation. The reflections below were submitted by artists, curators, directors and writers from across the North during March 2020 as we adjusted to social distancing measures.


Bill Brandt / Henry Moore

The Hepworth

Simon Wallis, Director, The Hepworth Wakefield

Our Bill Brandt/Henry Moore exhibition had to close having only being open for one month. It’s a huge disappointment for all involved, but the unprecedented magnitude of the threat we collectively face is critical to address. 

Brandt and Moore shared many subject matters, particularly the British landscape and the human figure. There is an intimacy and deep sense of human connection in Moore’s drawings showing figures huddled or sleeping in the London Underground during the Blitz, which are echoed in Brandt’s photographs. Forms are carved out of the dark conditions by both artists, using a subtle array of tonal variations to create atmosphere and presence.

It’s fascinating to me to revisit Brandt’s predominantly black and white works in the age of Instagram. His work is the result of slowing down, considering composition and the connection to subject matter deeply. Black and white photography emphasises form and structure, putting aside chromatic distractions. Everyone’s Instagram photography could improve immeasurably by spending time with Brandt’s work. Perhaps we could all spend a creative week taking pictures in black and white to see how it changes our perceptions and experiences.

Moore’s drawings are intimate and revealing, charged with connection and our collective need for one another. These works have a heightened resonance in this time of lockdown – so much of his art has a sense of human fragility and trauma. We turn to art to see otherwise private experiences revealed and explored: I hope the public will be able to see this exhibition again in Wakefield.

Image (featured): Bill Brandt, Nude, East Sussex Coast. Gelatin silver print, 1960. Bill Brandt Archive, London, © Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive Ltd. Photograph by Richard Caspole


Soft Bodies

Castlefield Gallery, Manchester

Matthew Pendergast, Castlefield Gallery, Curator and Deputy Director 

Soft Bodies considers the potential and the limits of screens. This crisis calls for creative use of such technology but whilst it assists business as usual, there will be times when the screen makes it palpably clear that the person on the other side is not really with us. Looking on from makeshift workstations; unable to adjust that unflattering angle of someone viewed from a laptop camera, only adds to our frustration as powerless observers of an imperceptible attacker. How do those lucky enough not to come face-to-face with Covid-19 visualise it, when the news report graphics that look like sucker ball toys remain alien and unrelatable? Was panic buying an attempt to manifest it, to make it real, personified with empty shelves? How will we tell this story of the invisible, of gaps and distances? Artists in our as yet unseen exhibition explore how we understand, experience and imagine the body. Conceived long before Covid-19 it will now not escape its context. This will particularly affect Soft Bodies and the way it is perceived by audiences. It will still hopefully be able to make its contribution to how we re-see ourselves, how we recognise what has changed when we return to our new reality.

Featuring the work of artists; Emma Cousin, Stine Deja, George Gibson, Aliyah Hussain and Anna Bunting-Branch (Potential Wor(l)ds), Robin Megannity, Sadé Mica, Jake Moore and Semi Precious, Sam Rushton, Megan Snowe, Xiuching Tsay

Image: Soft Bodies exhibition install shot featuring work left to right by: Sam Rushton, Jake Moore and Semi Precious and Xiuching Tsay 


New Work by Five Artists

The Art House, Wakefield

Laurie Cummins, Programme Producer, The Art House

Our next exhibition was to be called New Work by Five Artists.

This show wasn’t curated in the most traditional sense: each artist applied for one of our open calls for small and experimental work. The five are all roughly local to Wakefield, working in completely different media, and mostly didn’t know each other prior to this. There was no unifying concept.

I can’t speak for the artists, though I know this meant different things to each. As producer, my main reflection is that I wasn’t sure it would work, and was concerned that the drastically different outlooks of the five would clash, but I believe it’s always worth trying. It can be exciting to put artists together and see what they give and take away from each other. Whether that would have translated to our audience, I don’t know. Our programme privileges process over product and doesn’t always look perfect. That’s important I think, and I like to be honest about it. 

Regardless of the exhibition that now only exists in my mind, the work of the five artists is complicated and good, and you should look them up:

Melissa Burntown, Jo Cottam, Ro Hardaker, Ian Jackson, and Kate Wray.

Image: The Art House Wakefield credit: Jules Lister


Kate MccGwire: Menagerie 

Harewood House 

Catriona McAra, University Curator at Leeds Arts University

During an unprecedented historical moment when our sense of touch has become compromised, an exhibition that rejoices in tactility and aesthetic embrace feels like forbidden fruit. Yet, over the last few days, writing through the feathers of sculptor Kate MccGwire has bestowed a heightened sensitivity to seasonal continuity. Birds continue to nest. 

Harewood House was recently scheduled to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its Bird Garden, a sanctuary for rare and endangered species. Chiefly known for her intricate, labour-intensive feather sculptures, MccGwire is the apt contemporary curatorial choice for such an occasion.

Menagerie redefines notions of exquisite beauty through nine, carefully positioned, sculptural exhibits. ‘Cavort’ (2020) in The Yellow Drawing Room is surely the focal point or compass for this show, a newly commissioned ‘flying carpet’ responding to the sheer opulence of its setting: the acanthus leaf stucco ceiling, sumptuous Axminster furnishings and myriad bird motifs. Comprising meticulously arranged pheasant feathers, ‘Cavort’ plays with mirror reflections and symmetrical relationships through a cleverly fabricated, kaleidoscopic configuration that expands the imagery fourfold on either side. MccGwire conjures a mesmerising mosaic of concentric swirls and rhythmic flow, mimicking her interest in twilight murmurations. A kaleidoscope seems fitting, a glimpse into something marvellous.

‘Menagerie’ will reopen in Autumn 2020. 

Image: Kate MccGwire, Cavort, 2020. Mixed media with pheasant feathers. Photo: Jonty Wilde


Celestial Blue 

Unus Multorum, Plas Bodfa, Anglesey 

Debbie Budenberg, Artist

The planned exhibition ‘Unus Multorum’ was meant to have opened on the 4th April with projects, installations, and artists multiples from 111 creatives. As one of many artists participating from the North of England, the call to respond to the exhibition title and its location in an old Manor House on Anglesey, offered me the opportunity to respond to the possibilities of a house; with its layers of history, remnants of grandeur, domestic narratives, striking physicality, contrasting architecture; and various states of existence and decay, suggested, captured and embodied in its interior landscape. Although, ‘particular’, it is one house amongst many in a village, country and community. My proposed installation ‘Celestial Blue’ was a call to recognise the commonality of our material and temporal existence; and question that in which we place our faith, and its potential to sustain others as well as ourselves. Transformed by the global pandemic, ‘Unus Multorum’ has evolved from a time-bound exhibition into a project gently unfolding over the course of 2020, through the digital realm and from inside the house: showcasing those artists interventions prior to lockdown; interviews; innovative interactions with the artworks; and, at a future date projects like ‘Celestial Blue’, which reached a hiatus.

https://www.plasbodfa.com/unus-multorum-2020

Image: Debbie Budenberg, Celestial Blue ‘intervention in the space towards installing the rest of the work at the point of lockdown’


UCLan MA Fine Art Interim Exhibition

Harris Museum and Art Gallery

Sarah Feinmann, Artist

The Harris in Preston is hosting the interim exhibition of Uclan MA Fine Art students, who are utilizing the gallery’s main stairwell space. Themes explored include materiality: Lynne Shaw created a series of postcard sized collages from her personal archive of found images; Jessica Bowness made a large painted assemblage exploring layered textures; Claire Hopwood recycles waste plastic, melted and painted to create ‘landscapes’ with an emotional response to the natural environment; urban dereliction inspires Sarah Feinmann and her pieces relate to the distressed walls on which are left the imprint of time.

Jade Carroll is informed by scientific representations of the brain, creating tactile repetitive drawings. Hollie Burge has mapped her city’s high street, recording the personal stories of shop workers alongside collaged photography. Whilst Adam Findlay uses personal experience to explore the duality of self, through documented performance. Also exhibiting are Alexandria Eaves, Alyssa Haddow Molly Holmes, Fern Oxley and Kate Plumb.

Although this was a challenging space to exhibit this was quickly overshadowed by the speed and change of events, from opening on 16th March, to the cancelled preview, followed by the gallery closing.  We hope to have a closing event in June. 

Image: UCLan MA Interim Show installation shot, featuring work left to right: Jessica Bowness, Sarah Feinmann and Molly Holmes.


Flora Yukhnovich: Fête galante

Leeds Arts University

Jaroslava Tomanova, Writer

After presenting a large 16-channel installation by the influential cultural theorist, critic and video artist Mieke Bal, Leeds Arts University gallery opened Fête galante, its second exhibition of the year. The show offers an insight into the most recent works of Flora Yukhnovich, a fine art graduate from City and Guilds of London Art School (2017), whose works are held in several private collections and have been recently exhibited in her first major solo exhibition in Parafin, London (2019). 

As the title suggests, the selected works represent the artist’s investigations into French Rococo and the painting style of Antoine Watteau and his followers, depicting idyllic social gatherings and noble celebrations situated in lush fantasy garden sceneries. Oscillating between figuration and abstraction, Yukhnovich revisits the playful and sexualised imagery of fête galante (courtship party) and explores the notion of teasing, concepts of wit, beauty and pompous charm whilst maintaining a feminist standpoint.

Curated by Catriona McAra, the exhibition presents six large oil paintings and a series of eleven smaller abstractions on paper disclosing the essential gestures of the larger works. In Fête galante, Yukhnovich appropriates the colours and light compositions of Rococo paintings and distorts the elegantly perverted parkland situations, in which sexualised women were granted a sense of seductive intrigue but were still coded as recipients of the male erotic fantasy. By erasing the men and applying abstract, gestural brush strokes resembling Dorothea Tanning’s ‘prismatic’ style of painting, the artist creates a kaleidoscopic space of powerful femininity and emancipated female pleasure and play. 

Through imagining an alternative feminist rendering of a contentious movement in art history, the artist creates works of subversive contemporary painting. Inspired by the author Angela Carter, who critiqued representation of women in the fairy tales, Yukhnovich shows the relevance of reassessing art history as a way to dismantle the taken-for-granted.

Fête Galante exhibition catalogue is available from http://www.parafin.co.uk/artists–flora-yukhnovich.html

Image: © Flora Yukhnovich. Courtesy Parafin, London. Photo: Memory Potifa


Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945

An Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition

Laura Biddle, Collection Coordinator, Arts Council Collection

Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945 is a major new Arts Council Collection Touring Exhibition which was due to open at Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park on 4th April but, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, has been postponed until further notice. 

The exhibition challenges the male-dominated narratives of post-war British sculpture by presenting a diverse and significant range of work selected from around 250 sculptures by women held by the Arts Council Collection. Offering a radical recalibration, Breaking the Mould not only celebrates the strengths of sculpture made by women but also seeks to guard against the threat of it slipping out of view. 

Featuring a host of household names including Barbara Hepworth and Sarah Lucas, alongside less recognised pioneers of British sculpture, Breaking the Mould is due to tour throughout 2020 and 2021.

Please visit our website below for more information:

https://www.artscouncilcollection.org.uk/exhibition/breaking-mould-sculpture-women-1945

To maximise representation, the Arts Council Collection is also seeking to increase loans of sculpture by women to venues across the UK, including galleries, museums and public buildings as part of our Long Loan Programme. If you are interested in borrowing from us, please contact loans@southbankcentre.co.uk

Image: Courtesy of the Arts Council Collection


Everything I know, I Felt: Girl Gang Manchester

The Lowry, Salford

Holly Ann Golightly, Writer

Mid March I was lucky enough to visit the Everything I know, I Felt exhibition at the Lowry in Manchester. 

This experiential exhibition was created by Girl Gang Manchester, a collective of female artists, activists, academics and party instigators, and explores the diverse emotional experiences of womxn.

I had high expectations before I visited, and it did not disappoint. The works are thought provoking and inspiring.

The 22 artists are all local and part of Manchester’s creative community, and that is the essence which lies at the core of Girl Gang Manchester. They are community-based and they support, celebrate and inspire.

The artworks challenge in a fun and accessible way. They have been created using a range of mediums and you can interact with them in different ways. There are areas for debate and reflection. 

It is heartbreaking that an exhibition celebrating big feelings has been closed at a time when we all feel so many emotions. 

The future of the exhibition is sadly unclear at this time. Girl Gang are hopeful they can at least do a virtual tour and would love for the exhibition to open again. Let’s hope it can. I really want to visit again and for others to enjoy this deep and immersive experience.

Until then visit Girl Gang’s website and their socials to stay up to date. https://www.girlgangmcr.com/

@GirlGangMcr 

http://www.facebook.com/girlgangmcr

Image: ‘Everything I Know, I Felt’ taken by Sarah Maher


The Pothole

Bury Art Museum and Sculpture Centre

Anna Reading, Artist

The Pothole comprises a series of sculptures installed across a floor of vinyl collages produced during 2019 – 2020. The work really began in 2018 on a boat trip to the Scottish Island of Staffa. The island is at once an isolated sculptural relic, a futuristic outcrop, as well as a host for organic growth. This trip inspired the exhibition, which closed to the public early on March 19th 2020.

The closure was deeply upsetting. I now reflect on the works sat quietly in the museum and their links to our new reality. Many of them reference vulnerability, protection and hiding. At the opening I performed crawling through the space, isolated within a sculpture of a limpet shell. I felt safe, but it also hurt.

Composed of hundreds of photographs of Staffa, the floor collages layer its hexagonal black basalt columns and colonies of white limpets in a disorientating camouflage. Sculptures, positioned like outcrops, combine surplus commodity materials, including shredded foam, gravel, oyster shells, chip forks and cardboard, forming a tactile and fragmented environment.  Material clings to the sculptures as if they’ve grown there without being cleaned away.

The work presents absurd relationships between the synthetic and the organic. Many of the sculptures are host to repetitive rows of oyster shells, surplus from pearl farms, as much a product of human industry as they are a natural form.

The exhibition included performance and is accompanied by a publication printed in edition of 50 on Risograph.

The exhibition was supported by the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award and Standpoint Gallery. 

Image: Forwards Backwards Awkwards, performance 7 March 2020. Courtesy of the artist.


SCRAMBLE

Pineapple Black, Middlesbrough

Jessica Bennett, Curator

I care for the artists

I care for the public 

I care for the associates

I care for the space 

I care for myself 

 

I care about the art 

I care about the passion

I care about the accessibility

I care about the sustainability 

I care about creating a connection 

 

I care that this is now all lost, 

Lost in a world now filled with anxiety and grief, 

 

What do you care?

SCRAMBLE platforms 34 emerging artists; showcasing work created during their time on The Collective Studio 2019/2020 at The NewBridge Project in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Image: SCRAMBLE, Pineapple Black, Middlesborough, 2020. Courtesy of Stephen Irving.


Published 28.03.2020 by Lauren Velvick in Features

2,785 words