The Bluecoat
Thursday 26th April – Saturday 9th June 2012, 4.00 PM - 6.00 PM

Reviewed by Ben Briggs

The Bluecoat’s latest exhibition, Void, sees six of their creative community attempt to reinvent emptiness, Lisa Cole Kronenburg aiming to replace the fear of space with potential and possibility. Seeing her paintings on entrance raised an obvious fear of my own, that I may be entering a celebration of blank canvasses; thankfully we are spared this, Void achieving admirable scope from a moderate quantity of work.

Mist was the pick of hers visually, boasting depth and fading folds of sea. Late Afternoon (Witchita Falls) emphasises the roles of light and dark in our world, aether seeping through narrow blinds, though hard not to crave the incandescence her muted dynamics disallow. The bold mission statement hindered her, potential falling short, largely buried under matted pimples of monochrome. Jeanne-Marie was perhaps more successful, her focus being the transient nature of everything, offering several pieces based on sound. Sound Barrier is de Kooning – thick marks (which I believe are supposed to be the barrier, though an ambiguous piece if one doesn’t discriminate against the musicality of muddier colours) framed with threads that remind of scarecrow hair. Unwavering as they are, we are allowed to see the red layer peeping from underneath; this crude finish is surely deliberate, but tied with the lack of meaning expressed clearly, is difficult to fully excuse. What sound would be within me is more visually appealing, space-like landscapes done with sand, glitter and evocative oil colours, her birds leaving a hoop, Freedom I and II, also making sweet ornaments. Admittedly the flowery stems do little for composition and may have been better omitted in the context of this theme, feeling thrown in and commercial. Jeanne-Marie’s most surreal is a cat-headed ballet dancer rendered in fraying flat-brush strokes, appearing as marketable pretension until one reads the title, a lesson to all: Home is Where I live inside me. It’s a memorable image and highlight, the dancer posed but not still as the viewer’s imagination intrinsically adds to the film reel, much how in music the notes omitted and breathing space between chords can speak volumes.

Home was a theme continued by Christine Toh’s solitary contribution, Where is home?, fabric cut into generic stick-men shapes hang from the ceiling, screen printed with text, random numbers and architectural grid patterns, creating a crowd out-of-situ. The text represents their thoughts, they are ‘not dead or alive but in limbo’ and ‘feel like they’ve been here forever’. Inspired by her sympathy towards the cruel extended detainment of asylum seekers and refugees, I found myself relating the meaning of this installation far wider, to humanity in general. It conjures the elephant in the room most would rather ignore, the big one: why are we here? Interesting that it is almost overlooked due to positioning, eyes drawn into the denser, more immediately visible works – a chilling allegorical representation of our distracted minds in the isolated material world. Toh’s installation strikes deeper than it’s intent.

Rosalind Hargreves considers her pieces ‘entering somewhere and realising the loss of what was once present’. In this vein she resisted the temptation of painting an empty road, and instead has colourful rubix-cube forms peeking out of the surrounding forest, inanimate yet seeming to withhold kinetic energy. Though a dated style, she retains the original splendour of painting mushy, palette-knife manipulated marks and fauvist-specked trees. Boxed Off is curious, a peer through the bland box’s shutter revealing a soap-bar-like purple rabbit, a symbol of psychedelia, again suggesting a past culture suppressed, but requiring some thought from the reader. I’d at least credit Hargreves with provoking thought.

The only photography is Markus Soukup’s two photos made from one of a shoreline, all about framing and perception of the whole. It seems a fitting final piece of this exhibition, an eccentric yet accessible grab bag that’s cutesy enough to hang on the wall, whether it makes new comment on the concept of ‘the void’ being more open to debate. Perception does seem to be a key theme, the slight push required to see the works the way the artists meant showing inadequacy on both sides of the looking glass. It isn’t the void. It’s us.

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Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by Minnie Stacey on 13th May, 2012 at 15:27
"This sentience, this sending from your style, is evidence arriving in my smile." I offer this rhyming couplet from one of my sonnets as a comment on your vivid review. I'm inspired and look forward to viewing the exhibition!