Nottingham Trent University
East Midlands

This week the Nottingham Trent University degree show opened, a show with what I feel has a unifying theme of making the viewer feel like they are living an experience. Not so much how you feel just looking at the work, it makes you consume and absorb the meaning or feeling.

Lauren Halford is one of the artists who for me really did stand out of the exhibiting artists situated in two locations in the building. Two halves which burn in to your memory, so when you experience the other the piece it collides instantly to form one whole idea.

The work for me consisted of two parts the physical and materialistic aspect, which seems to occur throughout Halfords work, and a seemingly somewhat experimentive new layer to her work, the video aspect.

At first impressions having been familiar with what she creates as an artist in the rest of her practice, it first struck me to be very different. The video I found was daunting to begin with, as her work has always been down to it’s basic organic roots before hand.

“I’ve been working with materials which interact with their environment and create their own fiction amongst other works.“ – Lauren Halford: Quote taken from text on her website.

I walked into the main hall and instantly made eye contact with the seeming full clutter, built into two piles around curiously placed retro televisions. The two stacks, slightly facing each other with a cold almost hostile and tense vibe between the objects. Walking over as this caught my intrigue, I see up close the ruins of what looks like a tornado that has ripped through the vintage furniture leaving behind the heavier objects, which would assemble a couch. E.g. the rusty springs, splintered wood, and caught fabric in-between. This I think gave the piece its weight and power to motivate the audience in some form of way to connect personally with the work, because the videos then emerge on a loop.

Three videos were playing in one stack between the three separate TV sets. All showing different mouths talking, silent as there was no sound connected so you have to concentrate to create a narrative in the piece. The corresponding isolated television showed one longer video playing a single hand rubbing up and down on another thigh. This action being incredibly intimate, like an innocent gesture between an old couple underneath a table to reveal a lasting secret connection between the two people.

Upon reading this next quote from Halfords online site I could instantly see where the base idea for this fits in;

“The image of my grandmother’s hands rubbing together emulated the action of sanding that I did on the wooden parts.”

A theme appears in her work finally in the video aspect. Halford is trying to convey the making behind a gesture, something which you don’t get to see in her work, normally a piece is restricted down to its base material, it looks found and placed in a gallery, you don’t see the meticulous thinking process or finishing a single frame of wood for days or weeks like I have sat and seen. Beautifully this one video alone holds the key to an inkling of insight.

Thinking I had taken in the work to ponder upon a little I found the faces talking became a little irrelevant, I could only link them to a possible theme of devastation the scattered around wood piles on top of the piece conveyed. I walked upstairs to carry on the exhibition.

However I was instantly taken back with a sinking feeling of waling up and intruding on a personal conversation when I barreled through the door. Halford had installed a series of 3 speakers you walked past at ear level playing 3 separate speeches at casual spoken word sound levels, making you unaware this was her piece as well connected until you reached the very top of the spiral staircase. I was confronted with a secretly placed television like before on its own flat surface in the middle of the center of the column, a mouth silently licking round itself, a wrinkly and toothless old lady. Truly disturbingly had appeared in-front of me, it had really unsettled me.

All in all Lauren Halfords final exhibition had hit me hard, this new way of combining materials, elements of video and the physically made. I think is at an early stage in her creative career but has a raw and emotive feel to it. Her videos were open and honest and were unafraid to make the viewer stare. Stare at the places you wouldn’t in everyday life, you analyze and reflect back into yourself. Her piece is true, and introduces aspects of urban and everyday life. Often in contemporary work we find it hard to associate with the pretty, perfect and expensive looking pieces, but here you find it captivating and refreshing to be on the same level. And in my own personal opinion the work is a piece you will think about for weeks, it’s elegant, surprising and beautiful.