South Hill Park Arts Centre
South East England

PLAY-to take part in enjoyable activity for the sake of amusement, to do something for fun, not in earnest, activities bringing amusement or enjoyment, especially the spontaneous activity of young children

As children, we are, in turn, encouraged to and admonished not to play. We are also instructed on how to do it (fairly or nicely or quietly, depending on the situation), but we are expected, naturally, to know how and to do it. However, at some magical point in life, something happens (to us or others around us) and we are rarely, if ever, told to go and play.

At Play I, the current exhibition at South Hill Park’s Bracknell Gallery, explores ideas about play and encourages visitors to do just that. Co-curated by Cally Trench and Dr. Outi Remes, the exhibition features works by international artists including Marco Cali, Susan Eyre, Marcin Gajewski, Rosie Gibson, Judy Hill and Sophie Loss, Cathy Hart and Esther Jervis, Aaron Head, Pernille Holm-Mercer, Ingrid Jensen, Siobhan McAuley, Samantha Mogelonsky, Kay Sentance, John Tenniel, Cally Trench, Liz Whiteman Smith, Philip Lee and Fedor Pavlov-Andreevich. A highly interactive, multimedia exhibition, At Play I invites visitors to take part in childlike activities such as riding a bicycle as part of Siobhan McAuley’s Faster Faster, having a go at designing a landscape with Sam Mogelonsky’s Build Your Own Hedge Maze!, and playing a game of Artopoly, an art-based version of the classic board game, Monopoly, created by Liz Whiteman Smith.

The gallery space appears as a tangible realization of the exhibition’s sole canvas-based work, Territory. A painting by the exhibition’s co-curator, Cally Trench, the work offers a bird’s eye view of the memories and treasures contained in the artist’s teenage bedroom. Welcomed at the gallery entrance by Judy Goldhill’s and Sophie Loss’s, Taking a Position, a larger than life photographic depiction of an adolescent girl at play, visitors experience a sense of wonder and excitement at the collection of inviting works scattered throughout the gallery space. From Pernille Holm-Mercer’s installation, Skipping Rope, a giant, pink, impossibly knotted mass of fun to Susan Eyre’s surprising compositions, Restricted View (Summer) and Restricted View (Winter), the exhibition conveys a positivity that encourages visitors, regardless of age, to take part, to enjoy, simply for the sake of amusement, and to play.

Rosie Gibson’s multi-media work, My Brother Breathes for Me, is visually intriguing and provides a soothing soundtrack to the exhibition space. Gibson’s work also complements Kay Sentance’s whimsically placed site-specific installation work, Sandcastles. Sparking recollections of positive memories of holidays by the sea, the exhibition space feels like summer and encourages visitors to experience the pure, simple joy derived from whimsical and unstructured moments spent at play.