The title of a-n member Jessica Akerman’s solo exhibition is borrowed from the Yorkshire Fat Rascal, a cake enriched with spices and dried fruit, that comes from the region in which the artist grew up.
“Playing with the trickiness of language, the title reflects the awkwardness of social codes and living up to them: expectations, judgements and getting things slightly wrong; and a darkly playful celebration of bodily imperfection and my own making processes,” Akerman explains.
‘Fat Rascals’ includes recent textile sculptures and gouache paintings in a characteristically bright palette of colours. Here, as in much of Akerman’s work, bodies appear in fragments, while shapes stand in for human or animal forms, reflecting the artist’s interest in bodily interactions and the “awkwardness in being a body amongst others”.
6 – 8 July 2023, St Anne’s House, Bristol bricksbristol.org
Thirteen women and non-binary artists, including a-n member Paloma Proudfoot and a-n Artists Council Chair and Board member Clémentine Bedos are included in this exhibition that reflects on contemporary representations of the body as monstrous, abject and grotesque.
Rather than seeing these as negative qualities, many of the artists here present the unruly body as a site of resistance. Through works that reflect ‘the emotional turbulence produced by living under conditions of patriarchy, misogyny, racism and ableism’, monstrosity is presented as a disruptive force to established power structures. The ‘unruly body leaks, breaks apart, and laughs’ – claiming space for lived experiences that do not fit neatly into acceptable social conventions.
30 June – 3 September 2023, Goldsmiths CCA, London goldsmithscca.art
The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle Cartoon
Nottingham artist-led organisation and studios Primary, who recently led our online event a-n Assembly: Collaborative Programming, reopens to the public after making improvements to its building, with an installation of large-scale figurative collage by artist Sam Keogh.
Inspired by The Hunt of the Unicorn – a series of seven tapestries made in the South Netherlands in the 16th century – Keogh’s intricate works on paper feature a fantastical cast of cartoonish creatures.
These monstrous characters are themselves entwined collages of limbs, heads and personal effects from an array of sources: pre-modern paintings, algorithmic social media adverts, and fantasy franchises such as The Lord of the Rings. Many clutch scissors or craft knives, suggesting that they have cut and pasted themselves together before cutting and pasting themselves into the world of the tapestries.
8 July – 2 September 2023, Primary, Nottingham weareprimary.org
The Weight of Words
This group exhibition addressing the relationship between sculpture and poetry features work by international artists and writers, and includes a new commission by a-n member Tim Etchells.
Etchells, who is based between Sheffield and London, works across performance (including as leader of renowned theatre group Forced Entertainment), video, photography, text projects, installation and fiction.
His new sculptural installation of hanging text explores ‘the function of idioms as a form of social commentary,’ extending his ongoing exploration of language with a typically playful and poetic approach.
Other works in the show reflect experiences beyond the limits of language, such as Dark Water, Burning World: 148 Moons and Counting…2016 – by a-n member Issam Kourbaj – a fleet of small vessels made from repurposed bicycle steel mudguards and extinguished matches.
7 July – 26 November 2023, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds henry-moore.org
Inspired by a pilgrimage route that passes through Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, this group exhibition by 30 members of the Royal Society of Sculptors explores the relationship between landscape and wandering.
Several a-n members take part, including Fiona Campbell, who presents recent work Above and Below, which is made from found materials such as plant fibres, insects, bones and pondweed, while Flags of the Forest is a series of ‘eco-flags pieces’ inspired by woodlands.
Campbell uses labour-intensive methods such as hand-stitching, visible repair and hand-made eco dyes within her work to celebrate biodiversity and create works infused with the hope that nature be treated with more care.
1 July – 5 August 2023, Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, Penzance tremenheere.co.uk
Ben Cove in SPACE
A solo exhibition of work by Ben Cove (1974–2016), who worked from SPACE’s The Triangle studios in Hackney for the last decade of his life. Co-curated by Melanie Cove, Ben’s sister, the show includes Regular Work (2008), a series of paintings that were completed in a day, previously unseen works on paper and the 2003 film Left to My Own Devices, which was made during a residency at Yorkshire Artspace, Sheffield.
Cove’s work investigated ideas of the constructed world, with reference to 20th century modern architecture, art, design, museology and furniture. During his time at SPACE it became increasingly modular, exploring the nature of paintings and objects by installing paintings within sculptures and large found images.
12 July 2023 – 20 January 2024, SPACE Ilford, London spacestudios.org.uk
Life Is More Important Than Art
Taking its inspiration and title from the words of writer James Baldwin (1924–1987), who observed that ‘life is more important than art … and yet that is why art is important’, this summer-long programme at Whitechapel Gallery, London, includes an exhibition, public talks and events that examine the relationship between art and everyday life.
Artist Jerome., who is Vice Chair of a-n’s Board, presents works from his Action Black (2018-present) series, which ‘explores how living moments can be captured and expressed through abstract painting.’
In these works, glossy black paint is applied to vinyl flooring and exposed to different situations, usually over a single day – they have previously been used in fashion shows, protests, club events and string quartet performances – before Jerome strips the paint from the flooring to create abstract compositions.
Meanwhile a-n member Matthew Krishanu’s In Sickness and In Health is a series of small-scale paintings that chart a woman’s life through marriage, childbirth, motherhood and dying. The works were made during the decade Krishanu spent with his wife, the writer Uschi Gatward, before her untimely death from cancer in late 2021.
Until 17 September 2023, Whitechapel, London whitechapelgallery.org
Top image: Issam Kourbaj, Dark Water, Burning World: 148 moons and counting… 2016. Photo: Issam Kourbaj