House Work: Domestic Spaces as
Sites for Artists
Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham 19 January 2 March
'House Work' combines the work of fifteen artists who creatively explore the house, the home and domestic life. As you enter the gallery you are pulled to your right by a streak of loud wallpaper that leaps out from the stark white spaces that surround it. John Workman's Ready made wallpaper clearly makes a point about lifting life out of the home and locating it elsewhere. The bare surrounding wall glorifies this piece of work so that the viewer cannot help but move in and confront it, becoming part of the spectacle, fascinated by its bold floral patterning.
Being in a gallery calls upon the viewer to look, consider and examine qualities that can be aligned with the desire to see behind the closed doors of other peoples' homes. Wanting to see, trying to snatch a look at the inside as someone opens the front door, or looking through nude windows at night when the lights are on. Viewing home interiors in the context of a gallery offers the audience the opportunity to look freely yet takes away this delicious feeling of seeing something by chance, something private. But whilst the exhibition takes away, it also gives; there is often much public contentiousness with regard to artistic works and their value, monetary and aesthetic, but with no vast sums of money at stake or inaccessible conceptual frameworks, the works which make up 'House Work' require their audience to really pin down the values of home and the frailties of our lives within domestic spaces. Tina Keane's video piece Faded wallpaper relates the contents of a woman's mind who, being confined to a room, becomes unavoidably fixated with the wallpaper as her solitude becomes more intense so does her mental retraction. Roma Tearne's The house of small things comprises six large-scale photographs of the interior of her doll's house initially decorated by the artist as a child living in Sri Lanka, the house has been treated to a personal make-over reflecting the artist's move to England and her struggle to feel at home in her new cultural environment.
The idea of making art in, around and in response to our homes suggests a less formal engagement between artists and their working process, which in turn, allows audiences to relate to the work differently.
Many contemporary practices, such as we see in 'House Work', directly challenge the traditional division between art and audience. Gallery spaces are increasingly less about looking not touching, and more about pulling us into something, encouraging the audience to see themselves not as separate from the art and artist but as part of something, able to interact with and contribute to projects. Jeanie Finlay's work Home-maker takes us on an interactive digital tour of several elderly ladies' front rooms. Offering the viewer opportunities to control what they are seeing by manoeuvring around and into rooms, the considerate creation of this piece relates the sensation of having a good look round, of moving through a space as an invited guest.
In 'House Work' the most ordinary, domestic sights become spectacles. Some works adapt well to their relocation within the gallery but others sit awkwardly, missing that sense of belonging. Perhaps this is also truly reflective of life within the home, the symbol of so much that is core to our well being security, comfort, safety for some people, home is an uncomfortable environment they just wish to escape. These pieces of work are escapees, being given the opportunity to live beyond the confines of domesticity, to behave differently, to be noticed, heard, appreciated and perhaps a little admired.
is an image maker based in Nottingham.
First published: a-n Magazine March 2002
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