Wednesday, 27 February 2013

'Searching, always' - a group show by arjeea21

As the clock is ticking down towards the closure of the Gallery@49 space in Bracknell, ReOrsa was delighted to have an opportunity to host an exhibition by the diverse group of artists collectively known as arjeea21. I have had the pleasure of seeing this group exhibit in a number of places in Reading over the past few years.  Their shows include a few familiar artists whose work I admire mixed in with a selection of artists unknown to me, always interesting to encounter their work for the first time.  arjeea21 is an artist-led group, open to the region's artists, which meet regularly to offer informal discussions, peer critiques, and skill sharing. Their focus is on contemporary practice and the desire to stretch and progress an artists work in new directions. Their shows include a range of media and styles, often with installations that will interact with the space and small mixed media sculptural work displayed alongside the more traditional 2D mediums. The skill levels vary, offering a chance for less experienced artists to exhibit with the more regionally established artists. The participating artists respond or interpret a set theme or subject for each exhibition, its the skills and knowledge of the selection committee and curatorial team that can then make it into a cohesive show. The result this time was an exhibition that was lighthearted and entertaining, with work that showed dedication and skill in various techniques, but which had an underlying thread of personal questioning running through it.

That could be because the theme for this exhibition was 'Searching, always' which arjeea21 described as "The concept of searching is a fundamental aspect of art practice.  It's a driving force which can sometimes feel like a kind of yearning for something as yet unformed, unnamed. This exhibition will present works which reveal the artist responding to this challenge in individual and thought-provoking ways."  Walking around the exhibition I could see work which addressed the theme in a straightforward manner, responding to the literal meaning of searching, but on closer inspection had a playful, imaginative twist. The best example of this was the mixed-media work, a collection of several pieces that all related to each other as if one installation, of Reading based artist Ingrid Jensen.  As you entered the gallery there was a small book hung as if floating in the air entitled "will shortz presents coffee, tea, or sudoku - 100 wordless crossword puzzles". Its position invited you to flip through the pages and you soon noticed small doodles amongst the margins that progressed to colourful re-workings of the puzzles into geometric mazes and abstract patterns.  If you glance back towards the door these patterns re-materialised as drawings on clear film lined up on the gallery window.  Ingrid describes the work as "an exploration of colour, imposing rules that are allowed too change as the work develops.  These start from personal preferences and prejudices that force unexpected combinations and juxtapositions." 

collected works by Ingrid Jensen (left), Paul Vought (centre) and
Ksenija Krotin (right, in the foreground)

A very literal response to the theme was the work of Paul Vought, his starting point being the thought of what he has always been 'searching' for but has still not found in numerous walks on the beach or in the countryside, an ancient coin or fossilised shark's teeth.  Another work that rung a personal note of searching in the physical sense, given my tendency to always walk the wrong way when exiting a tube station in London and then spend several minutes searching for the right way to go, was the photomontage, assemblage work by Ksenija Krotin.  This was a fun urban land scape of London with photographic images of familiar sites and a rather impressive paper cutout of the 'Shard' giving a sense of perspective to the city view.  He describes his work as "My passion for shapes, light and time inevitably trigger my concerns about the way to transfer them into another media, to express my view of all those events and vistas around me.  I never feel that I fully understand anything, and that motivates me to keep exploring and searching for a new shape in a different light, as a process of tracing thoughts and emotions".

'Searching, always' a group show by artists from Reading based arjeea21 included artists Lesley Brown, Ksenija Krotin, Peter Driver, Gill Goodwin, Ingrid Jensen, Gerhard Bissell, Robert Fitzmaurice, Paul Vought, Christopher Hunt, Helen Lunn, Jerry Lunn, and Roxana Tohaneanu-Shields.

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