Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Indelible Shadows by Malina Busch

Indelible Shadows
Malina Busch 

Charlie Booth writes: 

Last Friday, the London based artist Malina Busch, delivered an interesting talk where she guided visitors around her latest exhibition at South Square Gallery.

Indelible Shadows is the result of the Joan Day Painting Prize, an annual bursary awarded to support emerging painters in the memory of the Yorkshire artist Joan Day. 

The exhibition although not curated chronologically, does show the gradual progression in technique within Malina’s most recent work. Displaying the different ways in which she has moved away from a traditional application of paint on stretched canvas to creased canvas with paint or chalk applied and finally ending in a manipulated piece of pre-dyed felt. For Malina even when not applying paint to the surface she is still painting; playing with the textures, shapes and shadows on the material. During the talk she discussed the evolution of her work, explaining that in the studio she became frustrated with her inability to capture the effect she wanted upon a stretched canvas. To solve this she intuitively removed the frame and began working freely with the canvas material itself manipulating the textiles until the folds and creases created the desired effect of light and shadow.  

Her paintings capture the ephemeral moments which fail to be fully experienced and recorded, but instead are fleetingly glimpsed. Whilst guiding us around her exhibition she explains that Indelible Shadows was inspired by the moon and its temporal qualities. The moon, as she describes, changes nightly in colour and intensity of light and it is this which she aimed to capture in the range of canvases on display. She is interested in a process of making as a way of lending physical form to the moon’s traces left behind by time, memory and imagination.

During installation, the second room within the gallery gradually became orientated around the colour purple. Each large scale piece displayed within the room displays a range of techniques for applying this deep and brooding colour to the canvas.  When it came to adjusting lighting levels, there was a wonderful moment where, focusing a direct light on to one of the canvas, the intensity of the colour purple came alive on the painting’s surface. 
Indelible Shadows is a playful representation of the annual painting prize. Malina has taken the traditional Joan Day bursary and flipped it in to something which not only explores colour, light and subject but texture and material. 

Malina Busch’s Indelible Shadows is open 12-3pm Tuesday – Sunday at South Square Gallery, Thornton until the 23rd November. 


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Charlie Booth interviews Gayle Chong Kwan

Curatorial Fellow, Charlie Booth, took a break from installing the current exhibition, Betwixt and Between, to catch up with artist Gayle Chong Kwan. Chong Kwan experiments with overlooked objects to explore the space between imagination and reality through constructed landscapes. 

Over a cup of coffee she asked her a few questions about her artistic practice and the upcoming show and managed to gather some advice for my own project opening in December at South Square Gallery.  

CB: You have a long history of exhibiting in a diverse range of locations and countries, what drew you to show at Thornton and South Square Gallery? 

GCK: I first came to South Square Gallery over a year ago because there was a possibility of a commission with the Bronte Parsonage. I was initially drawn to apply for the opportunity because of my PhD research in which I am looking at artist’s imaginary worlds and I was interested in the miniature creations in the early books produced by the Bronte Sisters. 

When I came to South Square Gallery I was surprised to find a contemporary gallery so successfully combining the historical with the modern. My academic background is in history and politics and notions of archive and so historic spaces have been part of my research. I am also drawn to exhibit in slightly unconventional gallery spaces as well as in the public realm. 

CB: How would you say your academic background influences your artistic processes?

GCK: In some way it’s strange when you go to art college; you think you almost have to let go of methodologies that you have previously developed. When I went to Central Saint Martins College of Art I soon realised that actually it was all those methodologies and interests that became the driving force behind my own artistic process. In a way with all the projects that I do there’s an element of research or engagement within a context or a particular community as well, quite a lot of my work are one or two year projects that will be rooted within very specific locations, such  as a project I did in Berlin with the city’s allotments, or the large-scale photographic work I developed for London Underground. 

I think research and scientific methodologies weave in and out of my practice. I don’t really see a separation because I think they are all related. In fact, I have previously created work amongst historical collections as well as contemporary galleries; so sometimes I bring things to the venue as well as take things away. 

CB: As an artist who exhibits internationally, working amongst and with a broad range of communities and locations; has there ever been an instance where its felt problematic to come in to another new place as an outsider?

GCK: I think in some way I’m looking for a place to belong and by doing these projects I’ve sort of become and been taken under the wing by particular areas and the people. I’m always curious by and slightly envious of people’s rootedness with landscapes in which they live or were born – perhaps because I’m betwixt and between myself. I believe it’s a sort of fruitful, creative thing being inbetween though. I think that by the end of my residencies and projects I do sort of end up belonging to those communities in a way, it complicates as well as reassures my sense of place and belonging.

CB: Some of your earlier work has been influenced by your own diverse family identity – do you find that you are drawn to projects that you already have a personal connection to?

GCK: I think in some ways experiences can become part of your personal background; your identity is not necessarily limited to your familial heritage. For example I helped fund my way through art college by working as a chef in large scale catering and so some of my earlier projects were based around food, but that is only one part of the work I make, and wider issues of post-colonial history, trade, and consumption have always interested me.

CB: South Square Gallery is committed to being a test-bed for experimental and original work? How have you found experimenting and creating Betwixt and Between without a set brief? 

GCK: I’ve used this opportunity as a chance to ask questions to myself and of my work. I find that often an experimental body of work has a different level of finish, it is more of an open-ended questioning, I sometimes prefer the conversational aspect than idea of a completely ‘finished’ work. 

CB: I am currently planning a series of residencies here at South Square (Dec 14-Jan 15) and a  lot of your previous commissions have been part of residencies- I’m eager to find out your experience of, and what you think about, residency programmes?

GCK: There was a point when I had spent almost three or four years going from residency to residency; however that was a particular moment in my life where I could do that.

Residencies are very interesting because it relates to how you reside in a space but there is a catching up needed; the art world needs to do to accommodate different people’s needs.  Now I have a four-year old son, I have to approach residencies in a different way and negotiate them; however sometimes it’s just not possible to do them. As a female artist with children I would estimate that 70% of the residencies are not possible for me. 

I think that during residencies there can be this emphasis on continuously making new things and quite often you don’t have the time to stop and reflect about what is important. Residencies leave you in a state where you are always arriving and making new work. 

The residencies that I now look for involve much more focused bursts of activity or over a much longer timeframe, which is particularly important in terms of work within communities. There was one curator who said that going for one long stint of a residency just doesn’t work. They suggested that you go first for some initial visits, then you go away to ingest and finally come back to create the work, which I think is an interesting way of approaching them. People have to negotiate how they work for them because everybody has different techniques and processes. I do enjoy residencies because they get you get out of your own personal studio, though I’ve never been the kind of artist who just stays inside in their studio. I feel that studios for artists should not just be a fixed place but much more than that. They are in a world, within a context and made by the people who live there. 

Betwixt and Between 
02 Aug- 21 Sept 2014

18 Sept - Artist talk 7pm, Food and Drink 8pm 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

'MISS' by Roy Voss

Charlie Booth writes:

On an unusually sunny day for March, David Knowles, Roy Voss and I took a trip to the neighbouring village of Haworth to visit the meadow at the Brönte Parsonage, one of the new sites for MISS.

MISS is the latest in a series of annual commissions for South Square Gallery, developed in partnership with the Brönte Parsonage Museum, which provide the opportunity for artists to engage with the context of the surrounding landscape.

Roy Voss, a London based artist will use the Brönte Meadow to site a series of ‘signs’ or ‘notices’ amongst the natural landscape, repeated three times they will spell MISS.
Giving the heavy significance Voss places on the single word within his work during the site visit I asked him to expand on the significance of the word ‘Miss’:
‘Given we are in Bronte country, there is an idea of missing the three Misses. Miss is simply a title that suggests singleness or youth. It could also suggest a longing for someone or something, but it has several other meanings of course: To not hit a target, to fail to be somewhere, to overlook or not comprehend something, to not take a chance, to fall short.’

Voss’ signs will be made from untreated steel which will gradually begin to rust, so as to form a kind of physical proof of the weather, rather than being weatherproof. It is possible to draw links between the literary work of the Bronte sisters and Voss signs, as the Brönte sisters’ work are heavily influenced by the dramatic, unruly nature of the Moor’s weather. I think his choice of material is particularly fitting for the context of the piece, when you consider the surrounding industries located on Thornton Road. As I travel to South Square and drive through the outskirts of Bradford up to Thornton I pass many industrial builders yards and steel works. By locating manufactured steel structures directly in to the picturesque rural landscape, I see in Voss’ work the connotations of the historical landscape of the area; a history of industry and manufacturing in the heart of the picturesque Yorkshire countryside.
Running simultaneously alongside the work at the Brönte Parsonage, Voss will open an exhibition within the South Square Gallery. A theatrically over-sized backdrop cuts diagonally across the first space, emphasising the domestic scale and feel of the room.

In what will become the second gallery space, small collages featuring found images and words will hang. Synonymous with the tourist industry, postcards are used as mementoes of the picturesque settings of destinations, but also as correspondence between absent loved ones. In my opinion, by selecting singular words frequently written on the back of postcards, such as ‘MISS’, Voss is highlighting the absence of the intended receiver.

 Located within some of Voss’ previous work there is a commentary on English tourism marketing strategies. By simultaneously emphasising the depiction of the ‘ideal’ countryside, as seen in his picturesque epic scenery, he suggests that this ‘ideal’ is a façade to the reality of the countryside. That a postcard selects what the visitor wishes to remember about the visit – an idyllic holiday, or it serves to communicate with the absent loved one that they somehow missed out, ‘wish you were here’.

Personally, the hand-painted backdrop and the postcards placed together in the exhibition comment on the attempt by the tourism industry have to portray a realistic and authentic image of the countryside. Yet both are selected and edited and become a constructed view designed to promote the locale and attract more visitors. They ignore some of the many other less attractive issues prevalent in rural communities.

Accompanying MISS, Voss has created a special edition print booklet which will be available at sites, South Square gallery and Brönte Parsonage Museum.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Samantha Donnelly: Sampling Imagery

Clare Nadal writes

Zabludowilz Addition, 2011. Image courtesy the Artist and Ceri Hand Gallery.

We are now busy installing in preparation for Samantha Donnelly’s solo exhibition Sampler which opens on Friday evening. Artistic Programmer David Knowles and I went to visit Sam in her studio last month to see what she had got planned for the exhibition.

For an artist so acutely in tune with our relationships to modern life and the impacts of advertising and consumerism on society, Sam’s studio location in rural Mosley, beside the Pennine moors, came as something of a surprise. Finally, after several wrong turns and confusion from sat nav, we reached the studio spaces housed within a grim imposing – and very cold – ex Lancashire mill.  

Though a tiny studio space, I was immediately struck by the wealth of material and imagery in Sam’s studio. Critical art books rubbed against fragments of sculptures, with collage and photographic material spread around. This notion of archiving, collecting and the found object is key to Sam’s practice as her sculptural work combines ephemera with personal trinkets such as tassels, beads and hair. In this way her sculptures form fragile, seemingly temporal structures – often remade/reassembled for each new setting - that seem to reference our own modern throwaway culture.
Long Player Lasting Finish, 2013. Image courtesy of the Artist and Ceri Hand Gallery.

Forming a key focal point in her studio was a cyanotype photographic series from images Sam captured whilst travelling in Japan. Quoting the camera and the act of looking, this series speaks of what it is to see and be seen in modern day life. The example of the Chinese and Japanese worship of material culture asks us to consider the new ‘religion’ of the commercial, of idolatry and shrines.
Studio Image 1

Studio Image 2

Studio Image 3

For her show at South Square, Sam has been very keen to consider the architecture and heritage of the gallery space, specifically its domestic and landscape associations, and the industrial and textile heritage of the Bradford region. The show’s very title ‘Sampler’ references this directly, whilst also highlighting Sam’s eclectic and experimental practice that brings together a multitude of cultural references to bombard the viewer.  With shifts in scale and direct intervention with the gallery space (including applying watercolour paint direct to the gallery wall!), the intimate sculptural works will form an installation in dialogue with itself, activating the space around it.
Install Image 1. Courtesy of the Artist.

In referencing the consumerist, Sam’s work speaks of the desired and the alluring – that which is so often humanised, associated with female sexuality. In many of the works a guiding arm with a pointing finger, or a beautiful outstretched leg asks us to come and look closer. Like all the mythical male sailors, enticed by beautiful sirens, we cannot help but draw closer. The meretricious, the idealised and the dreamlike combine together, yet whether we should embrace or fear the material is left unanswered.

Sampler opens to the public on Saturday 5 April and runs until 25 May 2014.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Featured artist: Lisa Denyer

Clare Nadal writes

Tonight is the launch of Lisa Denyer’s exhibition Geode at South Square Gallery. A recent graduate of Coventry University in 2009, Lisa has begun to establish a critical platform for herself in the North West since graduating. I took ten minutes midst the bustle of install to catch up with Lisa and speak to her about her artistic practice and professional experiences as a young emerging artist.

This is your third solo exhibition to date. Talk to me about the progression across these different exhibitions.
Geode marks a pointed departure from my previous shows that tended to be more landscape based featuring large canvases, often 5 ft in size. The work for South Square is smaller scale, more intimate and marks my development into abstraction. This has been a gradual transition for me that I would date from my move to Manchester after graduating in 2009. This was a key point in my practice as I encountered the urban architecture of Manchester for the first time. For some time I developed work that engaged with geometric abstraction. I also curated a number of abstract painting shows including Treatment at PS Mirabel.

Like many practising artists these days, you are also a curator. Tell me your thoughts on curating and this new ‘breed’ of Artist/Curator. How does one practice impact on the other and do you think it is beneficial?
Although ‘networking’ is something of a dirty word in the art world, it is something vital for survival and I do feel that working as an Artist/Curator has opened up many opportunities for me. It is definitely something I would recommend to artists when graduating from art school. I moved to Manchester straight after graduating and I found it very hard to get involved in the art scene there at first. I found that I needed to be incredibly proactive and also to think about making my own opportunities. To this end I set up PS Mirabel, an artist led project space, where I have been involved with a number of curatorial projects. I have also found that my curatorial work has very much led into my own artistic practice. With the abstract painting show Treatment I found myself influenced by the works I selected for exhibition.

What is your experience of developing as an artist since graduating from art school. Do you have any advice to offer recent graduates?
For me, since graduating I have found myself being much more spontaneous in the way I work. This has been important for me in reflecting on my practice more critically in terms of honing in my interests. I have been influenced by non-Western art forms after watching a documentary entitled ‘Outsider Art’ and have found myself endowing my art with a childlike spontaneity. In terms of advice, after graduating I was able to join the Castlefield Galleries associates scheme in Manchester, which has been enormously beneficial. They have opened up a large number of new art spaces across the city for which they provide opportunities for emerging artists like myself.

Tell me a bit more about Geode and its position within your work as a whole.
Geode is all new work from 2013 onwards and draws upon my background as a landscape painter. There is a sense of contrast between the micro and macro as I look at both geological and microscopic formations alongside mountain panoramas. These inspirations transfer into my methods of working as I now paint on found stones, which in their rugged shapes closely resemble the contours of a mountain range.

This interest in found objects is key to my practice at the moment, as I scavenge for found stones and plywood. I am fascinated by the marks, fractures and faults in these materials. Rather than viewing them as flaws I like to see how the paint reacts and responds to them.  The stones are also significant in being scavenged from the local area and thus reference the quarrying heritage of the region. Referencing this post-industrial landscape more directly, the exhibition features the inclusion of found coal placed as a sculptural artefact within the gallery space. Challenging coal’s status as a polluting fossil fuel, these individual pieces have been cleaned and display an unexpected beauty as they shine like gemstones.

The exhibition also features a new limited edition print, specially made for the show. Being primarily a painter what was your experience of working with lino prints?
I’d not worked with printmaking since my degree show in 2009 so it was a really fun experience, providing me with the opportunity to work more experimentally. I was quite innovative and used vegetables as well as placing paint on the prints. In this way they fit more closely with, and can be seen as a direct extension of my painting practice.

What future projects do you have lined up and is Geode likely to inform and direct them in any way?
I will shortly be doing a sixth month residency in Federation House in Manchester with Castlefield Galleries. From engaging with the stone heritage of Thornton and the surrounding area I have began to consider ideas of masonry and architecture, thinking of particular man-made spaces and shapes such as doorways and windows. I am also keen to use this residency to consider my interests in found objects further, specifically thinking about surface and materiality within the damaged found boards I paint on.

Geode opens on Saturday 07 February and runs until Sunday 02 March.