Work In Progress

South Bohemia Gallery, 196 Smithdown Road (Until June 17th 2007)

Reviewed by June Rose Hobson

The MA by Creative Practice Interim Show had a busy turn-out. I had chance to speak to curators Jo Derbyshire and Natalie Bennett before the opening. The Gallery itself was transformed, instead of being the usual café bar setting, the tables were all removed and it looked more like a traditional gallery setting. Bennett was showing her pre show nerves whilst hanging the work, Derbyshire was complaining that the gallery needed painting; I interpreted that as nerves too. However, by 3pm the show seemed to be coming together nicely.

The title ‘was aimed to present a show in an incomplete state’ and give the viewer ‘an idea of what work the MA student is involved in’. I was glad to have the opportunity to view the work before we opened the door for the private viewing. When it did open the venue soon became packed out, and within the first hour of the door opening three offers were made to buy work from the MA students – Gauryte’s, Bennett’s and Derbyshire’s.

Daiva Gauryte was born in Lithuania and moved to the UK to study. Her work consists of graphite pencil and pen drawings. Recently she had work purchased by the View Two Gallery, during a Charity Auction co-ordinated by Transvoyeur – the Liverpool and New York based art collective.

Bennett’s work is influenced by ‘outsider art’ and has a raw feeling to it, as are elements of Derbyshire’s. However, there is evidence of the city influence, the Urban, and the spectacle of Performance in the latter’s work. It is interesting that both curators have similar influences and they instigated the interim exhibition for their MA class. Both artist also sold work at the same auction as Gauryte, so perhaps these are local faces to watch on the art scene.

I was interested to witness the enthusiasm with which both Bennett and Derbyshire spoke of their plans to ‘turn around’ the South Bohemia Art Gallery, and to this end have been asked by Peter Worthington, Director of the Gallery, alongside Laura Baxter - another Hope University student and Michelle Campbell, to curate the space. As Derbyshire explained “ Peter [Worthington] has always run the gallery as a Salon style place, I never thought this really worked well so we are going to divide the café and the middle room into two exhibiting areas”. As Bennett explained “the front will be the main rotating exhibiting area” the middle room will continue to run as a salon.

Laura Baxter’s work is interesting, as a Drama Graduate, her influences are clearly visible. Baxter has created a scale model of a series of rooms. Her motivations are things hidden, things not said, and things not admitted to. Each room portraying a different scene of what goes on behind closed doors, her main piece is a black box with a keyhole and relates to domestic violence, which society accepts as silently going on behind closed doors. On meeting Derbyshire, Baxter has become more involved in Performance and Visual Art, after performing with her during Liverpool Biennial Independents in 2006. Elements of her art and drama are combined here to give the insight in to this.

Moving on the two film makers and media graduates in the group, Amanda Jones and Emma Gilmour, who work collaboratively, have produced images, and given a written insight into their current work. This is interesting, but would have been a better presentation if larger images had been used. This would perhaps have portrayed their work in a different, clearer light. In comparison, Sarah Lawton’s work generated via computer and from a live link up to Lawton who was at the time on an Iron Symposium in Salem, New York USA, was more powerful. Although there were some technical hitches with the link to start with, it nevertheless was an innovative and interesting entry.

Maria Bennett’s textile work in black and white relies on memories and secrets. Written prose on the textile sculptures gives a dreamy reference to memory and the past. Sarah Cox shows different coloured dyes in her work and has used an index of colours made from the many different dyes, which is aesthetically pleasing, and stands out in contrast to the black and white of Gauryte’s, and Maria Bennett’s work.

Dave Woods work is heavily influenced by Rothko, and his piece, on Perspex and is an interesting idea. It works as an example of colours floating. This may have been better with a bolder choice of colour. Andy smalls exhibits were again, interesting, and have a lot of merit, and the images presented were very good, and of a high standard, if a little on the small side. Interestingly, there was no reference to his sculpture work.

The curators did have a difficult space to work with, and have presented the exhibition well, whether it remains that way in the café environment is another story.

Overall a very good interim show, and a good turn out for the opening. This is a testament to the effort put in by the group. They had a bigger turnout than most end of year shows, and I suspect that this is a good indication for all of the artists involved in the exhibition, of how their end of year show in 2008 might turn out.

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