Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Chinese Whispers Exhibition at South Hill Park - a review (lengthy!)

Yesterday I went over to South Hill Park to see the textile exhibition in the Bracknell Gallery by the group Studio 21. It is on until this coming Sunday the 27th if you haven't had a chance to go. You can see further photos of the work in a slideshow here.

At first I didn't really understand the concept, even though the Exhibition was called 'Chinese Whispers'. I realised that implied receiving something to which you then responded to in someway. However, I thought it was that a work was passed on and someone else added to it or changed it. Or that you made work inspired by it. It wasn't until I had one of the artists, Jacky Russell explain her journey that I began to understand.*

At first there was a mark making session.
Here is a small selection of the 'marks' made. Individuals in the group chose one of these to respond to. At this point it was still an exercise.

The remit was to create a work that would fit into a teacup...a fascinating selection of these also were on display. I think these were meant to be 3D - or could be made to be 3D? I am a bit fuzzy on that.

Here are a few of the small 3D pieces I photographed.

And some which were displayed on the wall, but I think were still not resolved pieces. Not sure if these were the same step, or a further one.

Jacky Russell

The key point about each of these steps was that you could respond to any of the work any other artist had done in the previous step.

So, the work you made in your journey was not in a straight line, so to speak. You were exploring different ideas and techniques at each stage of the process. You may respond to one person's work at this step and another person's work in the next step.(who had responded to someone different - or even yours - in a previous step, etc)

And then more work was made. There were 3D pieces.
 Liz Heywood

Susan Chapman

Debbie Lyddon

It seems, however, there was another step where 2D work was made in response to other's 3D work.
 Amarjeet Nandhra
You can see the drawing was a response to the above 3D piece.

Here are several of the pieces which I really liked.

 Debbie LyddonDetail

This companion piece was black.
My camera couldn't read it well and decided to lighten it! I have tried to darken it so you can see how the little white ends of the strings really bring interest to the work. Compare that to the little dark ends on stings in the white piece.

 Liz Heywood
Again a response to the hanging loops.

 Annette Collinges

Jacky Russell
This work was large. It looked very fossil like, but it was rope with string embedded onto the surface. A response to a few small stuff tied snake-like pieces. The ties around the forms had the strings hanging. Jacky wanted to follow up that idea in a different way.

*Further Thoughts:
To be honest, I still am a bit confused about the whole process which brought about the exhibition! I really wish there were names on more of the pieces. Some of the 'resolved' work had names and some didn't. Apparently I was supposed to be able to tell which work informed work by others. Or perhaps it was the work by the Whole throughout the gallery that was supposed to be the completed work? At any rate, I got some of the names from Jacky who answered my questions, and some by finding the blog of another artist who has put names against photos of work on her blog.

It wasn't that the work done wasn't fascinating. Several pieces really drew me in and I wanted to know more. But I was stymied by no name! or if there was a name, I couldn't go and see what else they had done to compare how their journey through the process had changed/developed.
I am sure the group enjoyed this whole process, but I can't help but think that displaying work with no name rather flies in the face of current hue and cry about making sure your name remains linked to your work as your own intellectual property.

I also would have liked to know (without having to ask to be led around) what the steps were that the group had taken. I have a general idea, after asking a lot of questions. But for me this was a whole new way of doing things.
Rather than a general statement - "The starting point for Chinese Whispers was a Seeing Sound and a Practice Development workshop. The original work was passed between members of the group, responded to and passed on again. The resulting small pieces of work were circulated again – with unexpected and exciting outcomes." - I would have liked to know what that actually meant!

I understand, from the artist I spoke to, that it has helped her to look at other methods of working and not to fall back on her comfortable techniques. I think she feels it has opened up directions that she would like to continue to explore.
Perhaps it would help if you needed to freshen your outlook, but I am not convinced it would be useful if you were at the point where you need to focus and develop your own voice. It will be interesting to see how each artist's journey develops from here. Will they continue from this point? Will it be a development to their artistic journey...or an intriguing side trail?

I think it is very worth going to see the work. Much of it I would like to see again. Perhaps it is better to try to look at it without knowing what I think I would like to know?

Or maybe it was that yesterday was a difficult day for me with changed medications and I was already too confused before I arrived?

If you have seen it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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