Not all that glitters is gold, but you may be fooled by Hestercombe Gallery’s latest exhibition, ‘Cultivation: Points of vantage’ that features a surprising array of deceptively dazzling (albeit monochromatic) surfaces. From the glossy sheen of George Shaw’s enamel painted depictions of haunting urban places, John Newling’s gold-leafed plant specimens, Mary Griffiths’ iridescent, meticulously and intrinsically worked graphite drawings that sparkle and shimmer, Anna Barriball’s pencil rubbing of a stained-glass window rendered surprisingly light, to the reflective gloss of Mary McIntyre’s misty landscape photography. It is not a colourful exhibition whose slightly sombre tones provide a stark contrast to the seasonal colours outside in the gardens, but it will make you think; about the places, the vantage points from which we view and interact with landscape through our windows, the things we grow, the towns we live in, the places we leave behind....
|Anna Barriball Sunrise/Sunset (2008) Pencil on paper.*|
Things are what they first appear and not, forcing us to look beyond the surface of these works and investigate more closely so that new meanings are revealed. Griffiths’ and Barriball’s drawings both reflect the light, yet when viewed from different angles and in different light levels reveal their very grey, dark surfaces. Properties created due to the graphite from which they are made. I have a lot of time for Barriball’s work*, they have a pleasing trompe l’oeil affect in being both a life-size rendering (in ‘Sunrise/Sunset’ 2008 it is in fact a rubbing) of the original object, a window, a fireplace, a door; but in a material that makes them useless or a trace of what they once were. The stained-glass window’s main function to allow the emitting of light through its coloured glass pannels is now blackened-out as a grey, lead-like replica. It is now functionless, but reveals something new about its surface, its design and as already mentioned, the duality of its now opaque but still shiny surface that retains some of its connection to its original purpose.
Mariele Neudecker Everything is Important and Nothing Matters at All
(2009) Mixed media.
Similarly, Mariele Neudecker’s sculpture, ‘Everything is Important and Nothing Matters at All’ (2009), blurs with the distortion between reality and fiction through a miniaturised maquette of an abandoned dwelling through which a video of the natural world can be glimpsed (when viewing through the sculpture from different angles). It is an almost movie-like fabrication but one so accurate that it forces your eyes to become the camera; whether we chose to focus on the details in the scene that transports us in our mind’s-eye into thinking that it could be real or look beyond the sculpture and its presentation on a table within a gallery that breaks the illusion turning it back into the realms of fiction. This piece sits well alongside Mary McIntrye’s ‘Romanticism’ evoking, misty veiled landscapes which have something equally cinematic and suspenseful about them; scenes which are animated by the absence or anticipation of missing their actors.
John Newling Value, Coin, Note and Eclipse (2006) Pressed and guilded
Jersey Kale plants
John Newling’s work ‘Value, Coin, Note and Eclipse’ (2006) uses gold-leaf applied to,…well, leaves! The irony is not wasted on me and speaking from a purely aesthetic point of view is a visual treat for the eyes! Their museum-style mode of presentation is of great appeal to me. Made from Jersey Kale, planted and grown by the artist himself, whose leaves were removed at different stages of growth to create a horticultural wall that documents time. The gold-leaf was used to explore ideas of value and currency in relation to natural processes and, for me, becomes symbolic of the time we choose to invest/or not into our relationship with nature and challenges our perceptions of the preservation of life versus decay. Which do we value more, the plant whilst it is alive, the resource it gives us in death or the reminder of life it gives in being preserved in death? The idea of the land as a resource is also explored in film by Mikhail Karikis. In, ‘Children of Unquiet’ (2013-14) Karikis uses the sound of whistles and whispers performed by children with imagery of the volcanic landscape, to tell the story of the first geothermic power station to be built in Italy during the 1970s and its effect on the people who live there.
|Mikhail Karikis Children of the Unquiet (2013-14) Video|
All the exhibitions at Hestercombe, as we have come to expect (and perhaps rightly so) have some sort of connection to the natural world, land or the history/grounds context in which the gallery is situated. The connection the works in this exhibition have with land is relatively clear. If we were instead to take the title of this exhibition, to mean ‘cultivation’ in the sense of the none land-based definition of a, ‘process of trying to acquire or develop a quality or skill’ it rather nicely fits with what the role of the artist is, as a sort-of cultivator of ideas, processes or techniques which is none more than present in John Brown’s photographed grasses, sparsely, carefully and meticulously placed to create a natural quality of Chinese calligraphy without the ink. They are even more subtle and quiet compared to much of the other relatively minimal pieces in the exhibition but have a contemplative honesty reminiscent for anyone who has ever picked a stalk of grass and pressed it between two sheets of paper in an attempt to capture its shape and beauty. Proof if were needed that less is often more and a process a means from which the artist explores transcendentalism. Elsewhere, George Shaw’s almost photographic-like quality of painting in ‘The Next Big Thing’ (2010) is an exact testimony to the art of acquiring a skill and using it to capture a moment in time, in Shaw’s paintings often of semi-urban abandoned-looking places that might no longer exist.
In an exhibition that does not require laborious contemplation to be enjoyed but whose works quietly invite the tilling over of ideas through their seductive surfaces or use of the double-take; those who take the time to look, think and look again may reap the rewards of the ideas these artists have sown.
‘Cultivation: Points of vantage’ can be seen at Hestercombe Gallery until July 1st. https://www.hestercombe.com/event/cultivation-points-vantage/
Find out about the Seminar happening around this exhibition on June 5th here:
*Image sourced from: https://frieze.com/tags/anna-barriball
*See a post I wrote about Barriball’s work in 2012 here: http://somersetartworksblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/thoughts-on-anna-barriball-exhibition.html
Words copyright of Natalie Parsley.©