East Midlands

The Never Ending Multi-Story – Airspace

The Never Ending Multi-Story is a collaboration of four artists, each exploring the idea of alternative existences to that which they have become accustom to.

With each artist recently graduating from University, this exhibition enables the viewer to see fresh work emerging onto the contemporary art scene and gives insight into the direction the industry is moving towards.

Charlotte Radcliffe explores the idea of a hybrid world. As we constantly strive to improve our surroundings with modern architecture, state of the art technology and the integration of cultures; our previous marks remain creating juxtaposition between old and new. Amongst the developments and re-developments, pockets of existence become lost in the process and it is these spaces, or ‘non-sites’ as Charlotte refers to them, that are explored through her work.

The paintings are abstract in their style, but are also representational of the themes and objects which have been explored, allowing the viewer to be able to place and relate to what they are seeing. It successfully engages the viewer and invites them to visually explore further. The colours that have been used seem to have been inspired by urban graffiti art; this demonstrated by the use of bright colours presented in a style to that which we see regularly tagged to walls and buildings in our day to day lives. These colours are then composed with earthy tones and a darker feel is created through this. An urban landscape is created where nature can be seen fighting to exist against the waste and unwanted items that we have left to be consumed and become a part of these ‘non-sites’. It is an exploration of an evolved hybrid landscape not belonging to any particular part of our society due to it being forgotten or deliberately ignored. The idea of mixed elements is demonstrated well as she explores flat painted areas composed alongside sections aimed to be visually three-dimensional.

There is certainly a feel of warfare explored in her work with colours associated with common camouflage being used together to create an urban jungle, and this could symbolise these ‘non-sites’ fighting to be seen and acknowledged. It also plays with the idea of the nature battling with the artificial as we impose our ways upon the earth. All in all it creates a visually rich experience and will hopefully encourage the viewer to think about the issues that the artist has addressed in her work.

Anwyl Cooper-Willis makes her impression on the viewer through her imposing installation situated between the main gallery areas. The inspiration for this piece was based on the idea of control and propaganda being created through architecture. Her installation consists of what can be described as the front of a bold, powerful building, possibly linked to German architecture. The focus is on drawing our awareness to the level of control and manipulation over us and how objects such as buildings can have a big effect upon us. In order to state power and government these buildings are created and consist of large imposing structures that are used as a way of protecting the power which has been obtained; these everyday sites acting as a threat or reminder with regards to who owns who and how we must be compliant.

Anwyl has addressed this subject well as her installation is threatening in its presence and the large silver/grey pillars almost resembling prison bars, reminding us of how restricted we can become under government and law. I particularly like the use of materials as the artist has used card and paper, which beautifully symbolises just how fragile and short-lived power can be. The structure of the piece is weak and unstable and it will not stand forever the same as the power and fear that is associated with it.

Chris Hill’s photography is documentary in its style and tells the story of everyday people through a single image of their life.

There is no particular focus on one culture, class or area, the photos seem to have been taken in random areas and draw attention to the progression of British identity and society. Certain images elaborate on a person’s role within society. A car mechanic is shown standing in front of a car on a vehicle lift at a garage, then two men, who could possibly be related can be seen in work clothing standing next to agricultural machinery. In another image a woman can be seen standing behind a counter at a store. These images demonstrate to us the people behind our community who help to run and maintain the necessities that we take for granted. The style of these photographs is very similar to the type of photography that could be seen during the 1980s. The use of black and white, for me, emphasises the documentary aspect to these images and a theme of recession can be noted throughout them. This can be linked to the economic struggles during the 1980s and this is reflected through the images depicting a punk or metal gig and the football supporters at their teams match. Images showing a funfair closed and a building in ruins also draws to this theme. The change in politics can also be noted as anti-BNP graffiti messages are spray painted onto walls and a man displaying an England t-shirt whilst smoking a cigarette poses for a shot. With our society now a multi-cultural one, these photographs show how certain people want to be patriotic or feel like they still belong to some form of British identity whatever that may be. The viewer can relate to incidents occurring during the Thatcher era and points out to us that even after two decades, we are still in similar situations to the ones we were struggling with then. It raises the question to whether our society has progressed at all.

When I first read the description for Robert Johnson’s work, the aim being to bring elements of blues music and Zen practises together, I will admit I didn’t know what to expect. When entering the space where Robert’s work can be seen you are immediately drawn to the layout of area. The first thing to catch your attention is the broom resting against the pillar in the centre of the room and from here you start to notice the careful positioning of the works. You are invited to study each piece carefully just through the careful layout and the calmness that is created. As you walk through the doorway you pass a chair facing towards the corner of the wall and in front of it is a diddley bow. You then start to notice each painting where blues music is represented through the dark tones, almost creating the night feel of a blues bar. There is a lot of energy within these paintings, yet they are not chaotic in their style. In contrast to these is the painting of a landscape where a single string has been stretched across the canvass and secured at either end. This playing with the idea of the diddley bow, but also addressing a much deeper idea based around Zen practises. The use of diddley bows symbolises with the Zen idea that all content should be stripped away to reveal a neutral zone where we can then explore and experience things on a much deeper and richer level. The single string of the diddley bow is that neutral zone, and the many sounds that can be created from this one string, opens up to us the idea of deep self exploration and a search for truth rather than settling for constant representations. Robert Johnson’s passion and interest in this area certainly shines through and he manages to portray a lifestyle of blues and the search for truth and peace.

Each artist has explored the idea of looking at life from another perspective and the level of contrast that can be seen through the work on display puts a real emphasis on how fixated we can be with regards to the perspective we have become comfortable with. Hopefully this exhibition will allow the viewer to see their everyday life in a different way and encourage us to look at our surroundings for what they are.

Stacey Booth