Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
G39 and Chapter, Cardiff 23 February 30 March
Reviewed by: Louise Short »
'Ffresh 3' was an open submission show for all artists who are Welsh, living in Wales, or who graduated from college in Wales within the last three years.
It claimed to be a sophisticated version of the open submission show. Although by no means an expert, I am aware of some of the arguments and counter arguments that have raged between artists, curators, selectors and critics over the actual purpose of open shows and whether they exploit artists. Submission fees, cash prizes, artists' payments or their omission, accusations of nepotism, hidden agendas, themes, overcrowding, catalogue texts and expense claims all contribute to the complexities of the open submission show; it is noticeable that audiences are rarely mentioned.
Whilst seeking to extrapolate information about how exactly 'Ffresh 3' is a more refined version of the open submission show, I discovered a hotbed of issues raised by the artists and the selectors. Some open submission shows attempt to avoid attack by selecting work anonymously or by keeping the identity of the selectors hidden until the whole process is over. In contrast, the selectors at 'Ffresh 3' Anthony Shapland, artist and curator at g39, Hannah Firth, curator of Chapter and independent curator and project manager, Julie Crawshaw were careful to declare their interests during the selection of works and abstain from discussion when appropriate.
What makes the approach to open submission shows refreshing in 'Ffresh 3' was the invitation to the selected artists to visit the galleries and discuss the siting of their works. It was apparent in all but one room that this enabled a considered curation of individual works. Where it failed was the usual problem of soundtracks which obliterate the inherent quietness of other works taking earplugs to galleries may be the only sensible solution to this continuing challenge to the art experience. In group shows of this kind, artists benefit from discussion about the shared themes and concerns which exist between individual works and the opportunity to test out ideas during the actual installation of the show. In some cases lifelong bonds can be forged through this curious meeting ground for artists, and occasionally careers blossom from the exposure. The positive aspects of the open submission phenomena usually outweigh the negatives. However, artists would be well advised to keep a level head throughout the whole process.
The selectors were right to claim, in their introductory essay for the exhibition, that there were a number of interesting relations between the artworks in both sites across the city. Perhaps this is one of the more unpredictable and curious aspects of the mixed show. Every exhibition should be more than a collection of finished works: in 'Ffresh 3' there is general air of playfulness, erring on the side of mischief.
For those artists who apply every year at some considerable expense and effort, beware the odds are often stacked against you, 'Ffresh 3' had close to 100 artists apply, although no submission fee was required. Each artist in the exhibition also received a fee of £100. Congratulations to those artists who made it in to 'Ffresh 3' and for those who didn't better luck next year.
Artists in 'Ffresh 3' at Chapter were Meriel Herbert, Stuart Lee, Angharad Pearce Jones, Richard Higlett, Jennifer Savage, Michael Cousin, Paul Becker, Christopher Brown and David Cushway. At G39 Siôn Dafydd and Alwyn Thomas, Gordon Dalton, Neale Howells, Rachelle Viader Knowles. Phillipa Lawrence and Andy Fung worked across both venues.
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