ATTIC, One Thoresby Street, Nottingham
East Midlands

As with the first ‘Ground’, we are once again presented with an exhibition that takes place upon a purpose built (now slightly wavering) raw MDF floor. The gallery floor is described (by the projects’ curators) as an ‘architectural device that illustrates a construction process’ – such as that in the formation of ideas. For this second instalment, we are presented with a combined exhibition of work by Simon & Tom Bloor, and Jim Howieson. The gallery, associated in some ways to the ‘stage’, is used as a space for arrangement and the interpretation of ideas.

The exhibition is partly based on what is described as a ‘Case Study’, the title for a text piece, taken from a workshop with young adults, led by Alice Gale-Feeny, and Oliver Tirre. The workshop, which centred around the propositions in objects, the potential of ‘looking’, and how this is manipulated through language and arrangement. This seems well constructed and interesting as a topic for exploration. However, isn’t this what sculpture tries to explore in most contexts?

This idea of arrangement would seem to be one reason why both curators chose the artists on show here. Firstly, we have this idea coming through, not only in the accompanying ‘Case Study’ text (that I read upon entering the show), but in the introduction of a wall painting by Simon & Tom Bloor entitled “?”. The flat surface of the gouache painting shows a figure, dreaming of pattern and shape; a satirical figure, with his eyes closed, poignantly reminiscent of Rodin’s ‘Thinker’. With his dickie bow, goatee and hands placed tip to tip there is also a nod to a cartoon by MATT or Robert Thompson.

The arrangement of works flows from the painted figure, down to the Bloor’s 2-part floor-based sculpture, simply entitled ‘Corner Piece’. Looking towards segmented architectural fractures, and fragments of utopian fascination, highlighting their embrace ‘in the inevitability of decay’, the small plaster (appearing concrete-like) corners highlight a feature of a previously erected space or shape. These fragments of modernist-esque architecture are almost used as bookends, from one end of the space to the other, pointing towards the space on the gallery floor, in which the two works by Howieson are spread.

Howieson presents us with two large scale photographs, raised from the floor by more MDF, which in turn feels in-keeping with the minimal surroundings of the exhibition. The two photographs from his series ‘Sports Hall Sessions’, ( #4, #6 shown here), represent and highlight the architectural spaces inside mundane gymnasiums. The process involved in making the series involved Howieson renting out a number of British sports halls, for up to two hours at a time, and with only the objects around him, arranging and assorting them into what appear now to be sculptures; producing a wider narrative for these objects.

The interpretation of ‘movement’ in Howieson’s photographs, is neatly explored though the way you as a viewer orientate around the work. We have to manoeuvre around them, finding different points from which to view the pieces – much like following the regimental lines on a sports hall floor.

Towards the far end of the gallery we have ‘Delinquency and some aspects of housing’ by the Bloor’s, which at first glance, I thought was some kind of ‘anti-fly’ chip-shop style entrance curtain. These wall hangings create a mirage, questioning whether we are meant to be discerning an image from the abstract surface. With Black and White spray paint liberally applied, there are connotations of surveillance and pixilation, created by covering what appears to be a hidden colour scheme underneath.

This sense of a grounded, British aesthetic of satire, chip-shop tat and sports hall lines, as an overarching idea between the collection of work, is very strong. The depth at which the ideas are explored is tantalising, as a starting point at least. There is a sense of exploring aspects, and interpreting arrangements of appropriated matter, at the forefront of this exhibition. And as as for the ‘Case Study’, the exhibition only helps to bring this to life.

Sam Hewland