I have had a busy summer with life beyond my fine art degree, and have had to take opportunities for artistic thinking time as they come, which sounds less than perfect. I have been fretting about keeping my art practice and research warm when so many other things have filled my head.
But I did see two exhibitions that were surprisingly inspirational.
I went to Sicily and stumbled on an exhibition of the Italian artist, Roberto Comelli. I had never heard of him, and although he has shown work outside Italy, I can’t find mention of him in my usual go-to contemporary art research sources. He is chiefly interested in painting, and had cast some of his paintings as individual brushstrokes set on layers of perspex just as if they had been painted in sequence, so they sat in three dimensions within it. He made me realise this could be a way to explore the images I am working from. Click here to see his website showing some of this work.
I think it could be interesting to make the images in layers like this on tracing paper, as perspex is too clean and clear to convey the ideas of doubtful meaning that I am pursuing. But this will be tricky! I wonder whether it is possible to cast the images within perspex anyway, to make them into 3D entities? I would rather like them to be slightly opaque – like jelly babies – but I need to research whether this is anything like possible!
The second exhibition I managed to see was Phillida Barlow’s show set at The Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. We were moving my son back to Suffolk temporarily, and had very little time, but one of the best things about this gallery is it’s handy location and small size – my 15 minutes were just enough!
I’ve seen Barlow’s work at Kettle’s Yard, and in textbooks on installation art, so I was very interested to see what she is making now. This show is all about what an installation exhibition is, and what installation can say, I think. She had filled the space with shapes made from very basic materials, partly block painted in colours that suggested association. The upper floor of the gallery was filled with an installation that took in the stairs floor and ceiling, so that you knew there was a space inside it, probably a large space, and could peep under or over into parts of it, but actually there was no way in! The shapes themselves were on the one hand, not precisely recognisable, but all suggestive of actual things. It made you feel like a small creature in a lumber room, or a warehouse of theatrical things.
There was a video of Barlow discussing this show, in which she mentioned seeing stacks of everyday objects like drawers or rolls of carpet left by people for different reasons, and you could see these shapes in her exhibition. But she left all the pieces ostentatiously UN-finished. The effect of this is that your head is filled with ideas about what they might be or become, and Barlow keeps your head open by having no labels near the pieces. What information there is, is in a side room, ‘detached’ from the exhibition. I suspect some visitors might feel short-changed by this, but I loved it. It’s called ‘set’ because it uses the space as a theatre of space. It redefines the gallery space completely. It really was a show all about the language of shape, colour, light and space, and I would LOVE express something like this with my work.
Here are some of my photos of Barlow’s show:
I have mainly been painting for my cine frame project, but these two exhibitions really reminded me that all the repetitive painting is an attempt to probe what differences in looking and remembering we experience. I alternate between feeling that I’m plodding towards a new perspective with this, or have opened a great big can of worms. These two shows were unexpectedly encouraging and inspiring.