Kaleidoscope Gallery
South East England

Seeing. Seeing as. Seeing in. Duncan Brannan has assembled an eclectic mix of techniques for this last in the present series of shows based around the gallery name ‘Kaleidoscope’. Sculpture, video, drawing, photography, collage, to some extent compete for attention whilst united in purpose ‘Artists selected for this final show address not only the concepts of beauty, form, or the gaze, but also the way in which these concepts develop a discourse with each other.’

We are invited to engage with a discourse of spaces, forms, thoughts, ideas, feelings. This show carries along with it problems of knowing and experiencing. The works are accompanied by short introductory passages. The extent to which they succeed varied for me. Colin Priest, Malcolm Hobbs, and Joe Reeves present ‘Greetings from Deal’. Their piece, composed of a panoramic series of 40, 6in x 4in photographs taken along the seafront, boats beached, fishing machinery idle on the stones, people intentionally absent, video work involving a quotation from Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, fishing from the pier, the pier at night, an unopened mackerel lure complete with gaudy price tag, a postcard ‘Greetings from Deal’, a series of sepia-ish photographs of illegible tourist information information-boards. We are informed that, ‘These three artists take the opportunity to articulate the curious physical margins between the material and immaterial in which, they propose, exist the extent of any condition. ‘Greetings from Deal represents five states of meta -existence in a place some consider invisible and others salted with activity. Through various modes of recording and re-presentation as postcards of contemporary, fictionalised and historical narratives, a new lens to view Deal awakens. Images captured of vacated spaces evoke an imagined memory of what once animated that space. Whilst the separate works present these ethereal spaces, as a whole the installation offers the sum of the spaces to describe a sense of place’

It has taken me lots of re-readings to come to some understanding of this. Some of it remains a fog. Their piece as a whole encapsulates difficulties in the presentation of and engagement with some contemporary art.

William Henry presents ¾ size snooker table in which the balls are visible only as far as they are revealed by the green baize under which they have been relocated. On my last visit, a local lad (this being half-term, when local lads look for things to do!!) was pushing the balls around and into each other through the cloth.( Not quite what the artist intended?)

Pauline Alexander, Jon Adams and Caglar Kimyoncu present ‘….a creative response to Pauline’s personal experience of employment discrimination, addressing how peoples’ perception of her as an individual is affected by her deafness…’, through the technique of filming the drawing and erasing of portrait images to imitate the ‘… ‘wiping out’ of the person when discrimination occurs’. The film is accompanied by scrambled verbal accounts of discrimination.

Angela Malone connects us with the hopes of homeless magazine sellers in Vienna through a series of drawings and photographs to which the sellers have completed a sentence beginning” Dear Augustin, if I sell all my magazines today I will…” ‘Augustin’ is a publication marketed in a similar manner to ‘The Big Issue’

Rachael House’s small work ‘Tattooed dog Headed Lady’ asks questions if identity and identifying. The Lady is a dog? Dogs are loyal, loving; the subject bathing in Rachael’s photographic piece hides her nakedness; her dog – head exposes our prejudices.

Gulf War veteran Glenn Fitzpatrick’s ‘Symbol of Society’ combines his Campaign medal with a forecourt diesel pump, and a bayonet. ‘… a new personal monument to commemorate the 100 hour battle of February 1991.’

Anika Carpenter’s white sculpture ‘Living Together, a Self Portrait’ disconnects the rooms of the flat shared with her partner and reconstructs them as a somewhat insecure tower. Of all the rooms, only the bedroom is open to the viewer. The uninhabited bedroom and bed are situated at the top of a sculpture the traditional colour of purity. Lights are dimly perceived behind the windows of the other rooms, through a curtain material of a kind of voile.

Daniel Somerville at the opening reception, delivered a powerful performance of his piece ‘I’m Leaving you’ a ‘…study of the momentary response to rejection …extended over 8 minutes using movement inspired by Butoh – a contemporary Japanese form.’ Accessible in video form for the remainder of the show, the differences and similarities between performance and video are both immense and complementary. Somerville’s intensely disciplined performance creates the power of spontaneous emotion in a seamlessly flowing work. Ostensibly a progression through time, time ‘stands still’ in an infinite moment. The video constructed from documentation of previous performances contributes atmospheric qualities and notions of inside-outside, pain and resolution, strength and frailty.

In the process of reviewing these exhibitions, I have been made more acutely aware of the problematic nature of seeing, looking at, experiencing. The relationship between artwork, the artists’ intentions, and myself has been a puzzling experience. Slowly, possible meanings have dawned upon me, as with ‘Greetings from Deal’. The language was initially extremely opaque for me. (some parts remain so) .This has prompted me to wonder whether my experience is a common one. Clearly there are ‘artistic intentions’ on show. What is the viewer to make of them? The usual get-out clause involves the idea that we all bring our own experiences to bear – the purposes of the artist and consequently of the ‘art’, if ‘art’ can have purposes, can be put to one side in favour of some kind of democracy of judgement. Seeing the work, seeing it as art, seeing meaning in it, demand a fluency of engagement which might be rare, or not?

Greetings from Deal!