Susan Hefenu’s ‘XCultural Codes’

At The Bluecoat Chambers from 29th May - 17th July

Reviewed by E. Hughes

Coming into the Bluecoat Chambers is always something I enjoy doing, because of the very good reasonably priced bookstore full of all sorts of obscure but interesting books covering every subject under the sun. The smell of freshly made coffee doesn’t hurt either!

The place was empty, apart from a girl, who I think works here, sitting on a chair. It is a minimalist set up, with pictures and photographs on the wall, and some strange wicker basket like cage in the middle of one of the floors. I have no idea of what this represents, and would not wish to conjecture either. I sense an artistic atmosphere, which, unlike other gallery presentations I have been to, works, I don’t know how or why, but it does.

So, to the presentation itself; there were photographs of the artist, I presumed they were the artist, looking mournfully and artfully into the distance, or at the camera lens, and in some photos surrounded by her family, I presumed it was her family, in a very Arabic or Egyptian looking setting. She is, as she tells us, half Egyptian – half German. This is what melds and shapes her artistic leanings. The photographs themselves are all black and white, and quite grainy in look, but they are in my estimation interesting to look at. The other pictures she exhibits are curious drawings of different shaped wicker baskets in all sorts of designs. They are very art gallery-ish, which is just as well, hey?!

She also primed a movie camera, both in Germany and Egypt, where she merely sat in a chair, not moving, whilst all sorts of actions took place around her. I saw the German version of the movie, and to be frank wasn’t in a hurry to see the sequel! However, it is an interesting concept and there is something interesting about Susan Hefenu, and no, she hasn’t bribed me to say that either! Donations are gratefully accepted however.

The big questions surrounding art, modern and otherwise, are often evoked, both by the sort-of-interested general public, those who have an interest in art, and those who sell it, make it, and present it. It often seems a little pretentious, even to people like myself who, honestly (!), enjoy art galleries. Is it relevant, they cry?! Can it be justified?! Well, today is a sunny day, and I’m feeling generous, so, if someone likes it, I suppose it is relevant to them, and to the artist who creates it. Is it all created in a vacuum, and is there more there than meets the eye? I asked my colleague the other day, ‘will they still be talking about Tracy Emin in a hundred years, as we still talk about Vincent Van Gogh?’. You know the answer.