Friday 2 June 2017

FaB 4!

Art-goers of all tastes have until June 11th 2017 to catch dozens of visual arts exhibitions plus performance, music, film and talks as part of Bath’s annual Fringe Arts [FAB]. The Visual Arts part of the festival sees twenty-eight curated exhibitions in a range of venues and locations across the city, some worth visiting for their surprising venue alone; visitors have much to explore! I have been to several Fringe Arts Bath years and always attempted to write about too much of it in the past. I am of mixed opinions on what I saw this time around, even from some of what I have chosen here, but if you don't have time to see it all then you won't do badly by sticking to my FaB four!
In no particular order:
Robert Good 'A Defensive Manoeuvre' exhibited in 'The Obsessive
Compulsive Practice at FaB 2
Robert Good as part of The Obsessive Compulsive Practice, FaB 2, 94 Walcot Street
Should it be troubling that my favourite exhibition in the Fringe should focus on obsessive behaviours and compulsive repetitions or tedious practices of the need and making of art? There were several artists whose work I found interesting in this exhibition, Abigail Simmonds, Lucinda Burgess to name a few. Though the piece, ‘A Defensive Manoeuvre’ by Robert Good stood out for me. Lest alone because I work in a bookshop! Or maybe it is because I work in a bookshop that this works place within a show about obsession, collecting and ‘a sense of order’ really drew me in. At first it made me smile, like a highly organised Arman, the work safely houses ninety copies of the same book, each has been collected and arrange into its own neat bespoke box/vitrine. The wit of then reading that these are copies of Charles Rycroft’s ‘Anxiety and Neurosis’, mass-produced as Pelican books, adds to the seemingly compulsive orderliness of how they are arranged. The fact that they are second-hand, worn, read, used; each one we imagine may have belonged to a different person at some time who bought the book either out of interest or because perhaps they themselves were in a state of some anxiety. Maybe some copies were well read, whilst others not so. Those subtle differences and traces of use make them individual and aesthetically pleasing as it is loaded with meaning. Presented here, as a set, that anxiety becomes a collective one rather than a private one and possibly alluding to the bigger concerns that we still have as a nation in addressing, speaking about issues surrounding mental health.  Pardon the pun, but maybe I am reading too much into this piece –though it did get me thinking and for that it was one of my personal highlights.

Ally McGinn 'Broken Skin'
The Bath Open Art Prize at 44AD Artspace

Small but perfectly formed, there is a lot to see in this relatively small space that features a great variety of work. Some of my personal favourites include; Nina Gronw-Lewis, Ally McGinn (pictured), McFarland and Singer.
Embodied Cartographies at Walcot Chapel
“Walking . . . is how the body measures itself against the earth.” -Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking Embodied Cartographies is ‘An inter-disciplinary series of events and exhibition focusing on walking as praxis, mark-making, language, performance, choreography, philosophy, wayfinding...’
The Walcot Chapel hosts a lot of great exhibitions and is worth a visit during anyone’s time on a visit to Bath. A few of the pieces in Embodied Cartographies I had the pleasure of seeing before in other exhibitions but it was still good to see some of those familiar pieces in a new context and alongside some new ones, such as, Lydia Halcrow (pictured). In selection of artists and concept, this should be a great exhibition; though I feel slightly weary that it should happen in a year that has seen so many similar exhibitions to explore weathered and alternative ways of mapping and documenting and being in the landscape. Maybe I have seen too much but am still waiting and hoping for an exhibition in the future that seeks to shift the balance away from this very muted, geological, meteorological look on the natural world.   
Lydia Halcrow 'The Black Ground: walking the Taw and Torridge estuaries',
exhibited in 'Embodied Cartographies' at the Walcot Chapel.
The Building at Fab 1, 15 New Bond Street
One of my favourite things about FaB is being allowed access to spaces that we as the public would not normally have access to. In a former shop space in the centre of the city are five floors and a basement hosting six individual art exhibitions. The lowest-level being particularly atmospheric as you descend into a subterranean brick built cellar with curved arches, low-lighting and damp, dank conditions. It is an exciting place to see art in, ignites the imagination, it is unusual and fitting of what a fringe festival should represent; the hidden, the inaccessible made accessible. What if the walls could talk? What was this space used for? How old is it? There is an installation in this space (below) as part of 'Dreaming in Full' which transforms the cellar at New Bond Street into a fairytale-like living quarters complete with mushrooms, teasels and folk art style furniture. It is a bit too over-the-top, twee, too theatrical and staged for my taste; I think I would like to see work that responded to the space so you could appreciate and see it as it is. One solid, strong projection, lighting or sound could add intrigue to this space without turning it into something else. 
There is a lot of potential in the spaces and buildings used in the Fringe, I am sometimes surprised that the context of being in Bath, with its history aren’t responded to more. Being a visitor it is sometimes more overwhelming and distracting to be exploring floor after floor of these shops than it is looking at the work within it which cannot always compete with the space it finds itself in.
Installation at FaB 1, 15 New Bond Street
FaB is on until June 11th where you can all make your own mind on all this and much, much more! 

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