Sunday, 23 December 2012

All Creatures Great and Small - solo show by Hildegunn Gravdal

Gallery@49 hosted an exhibition with a slight seasonal twist this December with a show of new mixed media work by Ascot based, Norwegian born, artist Hildegunn Gravdal.  If the gallery team had ever wanted an opportunity to run a community based project at the gallery that uses the current exhibition as a starting point, this would have been a great candidate.  There could have been a call out to children and parents alike to bring in all their broken, discarded, unwanted toys and have fun creating new creatures to add to the collection.  I remember a Christmas animation on TV when I was young, I think it may have been a version of 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer', in which one elf wanted to make all the old and broken toys good again, the work in this exhibition brought to mind his efforts.

There was a darker side to the work as well, especially evident in the drawings pinned in a long display along the wall.  Here the work was more reminiscent of Scandinavian folklore, perhaps referencing Hildegunn's native home and up bringing.  There was one drawing that seemed to be 'Fanden the Fiend', a creature from Norwegian folklore usually depicted with horns and a goatee.  There is another famous legend 'The Volsunga Saga' about a ring and it's destruction on any creature that carries it, perhaps where Tolkien got his inspiration for the 'Lord of the Rings', and there is a Gollum like creature in both the story and in these drawings.

But all of the above is based on my own reactions, interpretation and understandings of the work in the gallery and associating the assorted displays and installations with my own personal history. Contemporary art should make the viewer think, question, reflect, have a good laugh, or feel unsettled, that's what makes it strong art and not mere decoration.  So though some of the passing public viewing the displays through the large gallery windows may have been quite perplexed with it all, I heard the odd comment from some questioning 'is that art', I found it all joyfully refreshing.

Drawings and detail of installations in 'All Creatures Great and Small'
by Hildegunn Gravdal

Hildegunn's statement for the exhibition said it was to be a "lighthearted comment on evolution, mutation, and hybridization". She is inspired by an interest in and love of natural history exhibits and collections and their obsession with naming and classification. This exhibition is homage to the early fossil hunters and scientists, their vivid imagination and irreverent disregard for creationism despite controversy.  In all it was another good exhibition highlighting the diverse work done by artists from across the region, it's still on view through the windows till early January.  Perhaps if your going into Bracknell town centre for the 'after Christmas sales' you should wander down to the end of Crossway, have a look and see what you think!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

'In my Mind's Eye' - a review by Barbara Gorska

Our foreign correspondent, young Barbara Gorska, will soon be departing the 'Grey Zone' to return to her studies in her home town of Krakow, Poland. She's had some good exposure to life after University and experienced some of the realities of trying to survive as an artist - like a cold studio, lack of access to desired facilities or equipment, and even a bit of struggling for inspiration in her own artistic endeavours. But she's come through it stronger, wiser, and with some interesting new work. In the meantime she has covered one last exhibition for me, painter David Wilson's recent exhibition at Gallery@49 in Bracknell town centre. She writes:

David Wilson’s rather large-sized paintings depict a paradox: The structures portrayed in the paintings are simple yet they consist of an incredibly complex compilation of shapes. The use of symmetry and bold colour palette intensify this effect even more. The viewer is intrigued by what the shapes might depict - there seems to be countless ways of interpretation.  
These kind of minimalistic and symmetrical images remind me of one aspect of Eastern European folk art, especially present in Poland and Ukraine. Wycinanki (paper cut outs) are geometrical images made in the process of folding colourful paper and cutting shapes into it. When unfolded the cuts form a beautiful symmetrical image.
This exhibition leaves the viewer fascinated with what Wilson’s future project might lead him to: will his paintings become more complex? Or will he want to simplify his works even further? It is all “in his mind’s eye.” BG

Two examples of Polish folk art with David Wilson's work 'Oh, for a better life' (centre)