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Bonington Gallery, Nottingham Trent University
12 January 17 February
Reviewed by: Hugh Dichmont »
I do not fear death, in view of the fact that I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.
Growing older it may be hard to share this light-hearted attitude towards death. Our bodies ache and fail, while the face we see in the mirror can seem like that of a stranger. In darker moments it can seem like dying is our everyday reality, an unacceptable truth which we spend our time avoiding and ignoring; with life a baffling and unsettling apprenticeship for death.
In spite of the ostentatious title, The Redemptive Beauty of Life After Death is a subtle and affecting exhibition with excellent work from the eight artists: Ardus, Ball, Farrell, Godwin, Patel, Godley, Corby and Forbes. While exploring aspects of mortality, the artists avoid an overriding atmosphere of morbidity, affirming that in death, and after it, there is a bleak kind of beauty, and we should take strength from that. Three artists in particular present interesting perspectives on death.
Robert Balls photos of pacemakers and guns isolate traces of death and the dead with unadorned matter-of-factness. The pacemaker photographs, individually titled using their unique serial numbers, evoke associations with imprisonment and the systematic tagging of Jews during the Second World War. The former carriers of the pacemakers are implied, but only through their absence, unified by their fragility and without any real impression of individuality. In doing so these images convey how long-term illness confines and, to an extent, impounds sufferers.
Martin Godwins photographic series Flowers, depicting impromptu roadside memorials, compels visitors into a game of reflective speculation and daydream. Dead and dying bouquets bound to lamp posts are a familiar feature of busy roads and these intensely fetishised objects, emblems of grief, assume a poetic face in the context of accidents. The flowers fade, decay and eventually perish with a natural decline, in contrast with the victims of the violent and abrupt fatal incidents. However, the absent dead are not the focus of the images; Godwin is examining the iconography and customs of fatality.
Mik Godleys series of paintings entitled 30 Silesian Landscapes, awash with ashen greys and fiery reds, bellow with anxious energy. These apocalyptic scenes have undeniable magnetism; the canvases strewn with restless, lucid gestures and tinted trickles that communicate a real sense of urgency. The experimental aesthetic of the paintings flatters to deceive, for whilst celebrating paint, these images also appear to be prophecies. Deconstructing rural idylls, they present the viewer with beautiful images of a contaminated and corrupted Earth; the legacy of the dying struggles of the human race.
Hugh Dichmont is a writer and artist.
Bonington Gallery »
Nottingham Trent University, Bonington Gallery, Bonington Building, Dryden Street, NOTTINGHAM NG1 4GG
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