Aftermath - the AirSpace studio artist's exhibition opened on Wednesday night at the Nicholson Institute, as part of the Leek Arts Festival. We were really pleased that people made the trek across the moorlands to see the show. There were some really interesting (unplanned) correlations between works - these included thematic links as well as material links and techniques. Some common themes that stood out included the struggle between urban and natural spaces, journeys and plants. Cross stitch, jigsaw puzzles, decoupage and other handicrafts are employed in an exhibition which infiltrates the civic art gallery with Trojan horse tactics.
Andy Branscombe showed a new sculptural piece, a bicycle made of living branches. This reminds the viewer of the urban phenomenon which can be observed in cities worldwide, where bicycles left by their owners for a short time are stripped of their wheels and seats and become part of the urban landscape, losing their use. It reminded me of Eirini Boukla's project 'The Bicycle Thieves.'
Brian Holdcroft showed a new photographic piece, which has to be my favourite piece that he has done to date. The piece consists of one photograph repeated and put together in a landscape assemblage, suggestive of a journey. All the other artists showed new work too: go to the AirSpace site for details of all the works.
Working within the Nicholson Institute raised some issues for us to resolve in terms of the curation of the work. There are rules when working in a place like this: the history and structure of the building dictates what can and cannot be done within the space. There are three heavy glass display cabinets in the centre of the room, which have an impact on the entire space, limiting the flexibility of where floor based works can go. The beautiful parquet floor also requires consideration. i.e. Brian's soil had to have plastic sheeting underneath it, which had an impact on the look of the piece. As well as this 2d works had to be hung from the picture rails. It was interesting for all of us to negotiate a new space.
For me the challenges of the space were interesting, and worked in my favour. The cabinets were perfect for the works that I wished to show. My collection of 1986 Garden Festival Memorabilia fit perfectly in the setting.
In the first flat bed cabinet I showed the guide books and other paper based objects from my collection. In the far end cabinet with 3 shelves I showed the 3d objects from the collection as well as the decoupage souvenir which I made.
Then in the middle cabinet I displayed the 52 copies of Woman's Weekly from 1986. The other element of the exhibition was a focus on the Woman's Weekly gardens from the festival in '86. Six of the plants planted in the garden would be resown and grown during the exhibition, and the middle cabinet housed an apple tree - like the one from the Woman's Weekly garden.
During the private view I did a seed planting performance, replanting the 6 chosen plants. These were rosemary, asters, rudbeckia, lupins, night scented phlox and foxgloves.
I was really pleased with how this went down, I just got on and planted the seeds, and people came over to talk to me while I was doing it. Most of the people that came over talked to me about the garden festival and any thoughts or memories they have about it. Mark Brereton (Blurb creator) talked about what a massive event it was, and how exciting to have a cable car in Stoke-on-Trent. He also said that he has a lot of photographs of the event which he will bring in for me to the second stage of the project: the secret guerilla planting picnic, which will repopulate the festival site with the flowers from the Woman's Weekly garden.
I also showed the 6 completed decoupage examples on the wall. These consisted of the photographic explorations into the festival site as it is today, repopulated by 1980's characters from the Woman's weeklies.
The show has been quite well attended since Wednseday - and so far there has been some interesting feedback. My favourite two comments so far (as relayed by Andy - invigilating on Saturday) 'It's not up to the usual Staffordshire Artist's standards,' and my second favourite comment from a viewer that my work was obviously about the Duchess of York. Brilliant.
The show is on til 30th May - so there is still time if you fancy a gander...