Our crit drew an amazing and diverse group of artists together – and meeting one another through such an interesting range of work made for a refreshing and inspiring afternoon.
We started by looking at Magnus Ayers’ work, installed in the LOFT space at Turf. As you entered the space, an audio track paired with a video work circled around a number of speakers, playing a droll computerised read-out of what sounded like advertising sound-bites and marketing shpiel for a car manufacturer. The video that accompanied it mirrored the revolving movement of the audio, a digital rendering of a car continuously driving down a seemingly endless, spiralling road. Alongside the video were two flat hoardings; a slightly sinister animated character found in a French garage, and a digitally warped image of a sleek car chassis. Magnus talked about his interest in translating surfaces from one to media to another – in this case from a computer screen to something physical, but several members of the group also commented on the works’ disconcerting and alienating effect.
Miguel Sopena, another artist who works from Turf’s premises, then showed a recent series of abstract paintings. The group were intrigued by the works’ textural qualities; through mixing paint and marble dust Miguel had produced a thick and rough impasto effect. The use of marble was formally important for the artist as well – a material that featured in a vivid childhood memory that was the starting point for each of the paintings. Miguel spoke eloquently about the struggle to translate a strong emotion into something tangible-yet-abstract, but the paintings had real presence and impact – there was a boldness and confidence in the work.
We then turned to Ben Hartley, an artist who is also working on a fascinating PhD about the impact of curated artwork in hospitals on staff and patients – especially in cancer wards. Ben took us through some of his recent drawings, on-the-fly sketches of individuals he had encountered at the hospitals where he had been working (a beautiful series) and gave us an overview of his research. Cancer wards are a particularly stressful environment for staff (there is a greater level of expectation placed on them than in other departments), and Ben has been investigating how engaging with art (in this case through collaborating with staff on the curation of art in the ward itself) might benefit those involved. There seems to be a growing interest in these sorts of artistic interventions into healthcare environments (like the RELAX digital commission that invites artists to create bespoke moving image works for hospital wards), and Ben’s work is right at the forefront of this.
Andy Baker then showed us one of his exquisite paintings. In extraordinary detail, he depicts an imaginary scene – a tiger prowling through long grass and a luminous, cracked landscape, all deep blues, pinks and turquoise. In the foreground we see the animal’s reflection in a pool of water, while in the distance a bright peak covered in snow rises above the peculiar terrain. The group were taken by the clarity of the work and the skill of the artist, and Andy explained his process – working over a number of months on any one painting, and the almost therapeutic aspect of working in such painstaking detail. The fidelity with which Andy had created this image – drawn from his imagination – reminded me of surrealist attempts to capture fleeting mental images, to pick the viewer up and take them ‘elsewhere’.
At the end of our day Robert Lovejoy took us around the exhibition of artists who have worked with Turf as part of the Makers Of Stuff Squad. We looked at two of his drawings as part of the exhibition, and a number of sketchbooks, collections of drawings and collages. Robert was prolific; we were treated to an incredible variety of work, some of which made you chuckle (my favourite being an impression of someone who had just watched a David Cronenberg film), but also drawings that were more intimate. Drawings of the streets that Robert had lived on, Irish landscapes that were important for his family, alongside images that were almost bursting at the seams with his obsessions – music and LP covers in particular. There was a surfeit of expression and personality to the work that was joyful, and it was a brilliant end to the session.
I was particularly grateful for the contribution of Tom Milsom – a musician who came along for the day – it was really useful to have the insight and intelligence of someone who had another perspective on the work – and also Holly Graham who helped facilitate the session and contributed to our discussions as well.
What a fantastic afternoon!
Thanks to Seth for leading this session and for this writeup! Our next opportunity for artists + makers to get free feedback is 27 Jan, 12-2pm, led by Frivolous Convulsions exhibition artist Grant Foster.