Sunday, 27 January 2013

Mirrors and Windows - a STATE of mind

"John Szarkowski once curated a show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York titled Mirrors and Windows. His premise was that some artists view the world as if looking through a window at things happening 'out there', while others view the world as if looking in a mirror at a world inside themselves."  This is taken from a little book I recently read entitled 'Art & Fear, Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking' by David Bayles & Ted Orland, I highly recommend it. The authors go on to say "If art is about self, the widely accepted corollary is that making art is about self-expression.  And it is - but that is not necessarily all it is.  It may only be a passing feature of our times that validating the sense of who-you-are is held up as the major source of the need to make art.  What gets lost in that interpretation is an older sense that art is something you do out in the world, or even something you do for the world.  The need to make art may not stem solely from the need to express who you are, but from a need to complete a relationship with something outside yourself."

So it's with this in mind that I once again viewed the group show by the Studio8 Artists from New Greenham Arts - STATE - which had now travelled from their home in Newbury to the heart of the 'grey zone' in Bracknell town centre's Gallery@49.  I stood musing in the gallery with one of the artists based in the studios behind the gallery, she had also seen the show in its first iteration in Newbury and we had an interesting discussion about how art is effected by the context in which we observe it in.  In this current hang, which for the most part was the same work we had seen four months ago (read the original review here), we were surprised by some of the differences caused by the way in which it was displayed.  Missing were the large sculptural works of Steve Sommerville, the only floor sculpture now in the show was a very strong piece by the newest artist in the group Louise Patey.  The work of Sally Haynes and Shirley Eccles was still as striking, if not more so in this small gallery, as it had been in Newbury.  The interesting resin pieces of Flora Gare were even harder though to experience here, partially due to their transparent nature.  The work both of us noted that we had almost overlooked in Newbury, due to it being hung in a corridor that was not lit well for the work and had lots of other visual distractions of notice boards and signs but really stood out here, were the large prints of Marie Sudwell.  And due to the reduced tonal range of Gallery@49's space, hovering in the steely light grey range, the colourful paintings of Helen Lunn, Helen Peake and Chrissie Gutsell had a vibrancy that I hadn't appreciated as much in Newbury.

So applying this idea of 'Mirrors and Windows' one could look at the eight artists participating in this exhibition and try and differentiate the 'mirrors' from the 'windows' with relative ease if you just observe the work, but read the artists statements and the distinction blurs a bit.  Helen Lunn's colourful and textural paintings could be purely abstract internal musings (a mirror) when in fact, per her statement, she is observing the planet's surface and in particular beachcombing around St. Ives (a great window).  So the understanding or meaning of art is never 'black and white' as they say, but numerous variations of grey.  There are times when an artist may need to have a period of looking inwards and other times when events or circumstances drive the need for looking out on the world around us.  Either way, its the state of needing to express themselves and then the willingness and ability to share this with an outside observer that is, I believe, important to an artist's practice and continuing development.  Let's hope there are plenty of future opportunities to observe the work of this talented group of artists!


Hands 2 by Louise Patey (left), Fractured City by Marie Sudwell (centre) and Precious Resources II by Helen Lunn (right)

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