Saturday, 31 March 2012

Lost Outside - MoreArts Wokingham

This past week I visited the More Arts space on Peach St in Wokingham Berkshire (another empty shop creative initiative in the Grey Zone) and was duly impressed with the current exhibition Lost Outside a small group show by the current year MFA Photography students from the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham, Surrey.  The show by six photographers with international backgrounds (only 1 being British) addressed various topics but the ones that really stood out for me focused on identity and family history.

Maryam Jamalian an Iranian woman had a stark image of her sister in Muslim dress on a roof top with the view of sprawling Tehran in the background.  The image speaks to the viewer about the restrictions put on women in Iran alongside the limitations on freedom of speech and the use of rooftops as a means to pass information otherwise prohibited.

Yuri Gomi a young Japanese woman used old photographs of her great grandmother visiting well known tourist spots across Europe in the mid 1960's as the starting point for her work.  She retraced her ancestor's footsteps recreating these images in the present day.  The series reflects the change in attitudes to travel and dress in 4 decades alongside the link to family history.

Part of a series by Yuri Gomi

The work that spoke the most about identity and family history in the exhibition though was by the American Anita Grosz who lives in Wokingham.  Her work uses the letters of a young Jewish Czech boy and his British 'sponsor' during the flight from Nazi Europe. "These letters illustrate the struggle for identity while coping with the consequences of involuntary displacement".  She sought out the English addresses of the sponsor's letters to the young boy photographing the front doors of those places today.  That young Czech boy who came to live in England in 1939 escaping the fate that befell his family and the countless Jews across Europe was Anita's father.

Letters from Lilian - Doorways (detail) by Anita Grosz

Friday, 30 March 2012

Boundaries and Beyond - ReOrsa Artists Project No 6

ReOrsa has done it again by bringing together artists from across the region in an exhibition in Bracknell town centre using empty shop windows, boarded up spaces, and Gallery@49 the contemporary art space they manage.  This sixth project by the team was curated by co-founder Jenny Parkes who asked artists to interpret and respond to the theme of 'Boundaries and Beyond'.

The response was as varied and interesting as the artists who participated, all of the work was very strong but my personal favourite was the work 'Postcards from Beyond the Edge' by Gemma Cumming.  Her response to Boundaries was to produce over 60 individual unique postcards that "infer that the current boundaries of human exploration have become as familiar to tourists as the Italian Riviera."

ReOrsa Artists Project No 6 - Boundaries and Beyond
Floating above the Earth (postcard) by Gemma Cumming

Another work in the exhibition that I could look at for hours and still find new things to ponder and reflect on was the mixed media piece by the show's curator Jenny Parkes.  'Thinking in Boxes 1' explores patterns of thought and levels of consciousness through the use of found, old and rusted, metal objects.

Thinking in Boxes 1 (detail) by Jenny Parkes

The Project also went beyond the walls of the curated exhibition in the gallery by utilising some empty shop spaces, both windows and boarded up ones. The work that probably was the most controversial and least understood by the passing public was the installation by Charlotte McClelland which was a comment on the boundary between promise and reality in our consumer society.

Installation by Charlotte McClelland with work by Sarah Britten-Jones seen to the far right.

As in the last ReOrsa project in Bracknell, artist's used outdoor spaces to try and engage the passing locals who may find most contemporary art beyond their reach.  ReOrsa co-founder Janet Curley Cannon played with the perception of the imagined versus actual boundaries whilst asking us to consider the impact of future planning implications on our green and open land.

Urban Boundaries Series (outdoor intervention) by Janet Curley Cannon

Some of the artists participating in this Project will be having solo shows in Gallery@49 in the coming months, I look forward to seeing their work after such an interesting group show!