Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Interviews with the finalists in the Catlin Art Prize 2015 at Londonewcastle Project Space

Catlin Art Prize 2015
Londonewcastle Project Space
8-30 May 2015

Each year, curator, publisher and art dealer Justin Hammond scours the country looking for the most promising graduate art talent. He attends degree shows, speaks to course tutors, collectors, curators and artists, and compiles a list of 40 graduates, whom he deems worthwhile watching. The Catlin Guide, launched each year at the London Art Fair, presents these 40 artists with an image of their work and a short Q&A interview about their future projects and aspirations. From this long-list, Hammond then selects eight artists to be in the Catlin Art Prize exhibition, held in May at the Londonewcastle Project Space in Shoreditch. He looks for talent and promise, of course, but also for artists whom he thinks will work well together and produce a cohesive and coherent group show. This year, the eight finalists’ work draws on themes of urban renewal and gentrification, power struggles, and a more surprising common undercurrent: Nazism.

The eight artists to look out for this year are: Jon Baker (Chelsea College of Arts), Felicity Hammond (Royal College of Art), Oliver Hickmet (City & Guilds of London Art School), Nicholas William Johnson (Royal College of Art), Paul Schneider (Royal Academy of Arts), Lexi Strauss (Royal College of Art), Dominic Watson (The Glasgow School of Art) and Zhu Tian (Royal College of Art). With the winner of the £5000 prize – selected by a jury, this year comprising Aaron Cezar, founding Director of Delfina Foundation; Charlotte Schepke, founder of London art space Large Glass and previously director of the Frith Street Gallery; and  George Vasey, independent writer and curator of the  Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art – having been announced on 13 May as Zhu Tian and the Visitor Vote (£2000) going to Paul Schneider, Studio International went to take a look at the exhibition and to speak to the artists taking part.[1]

[1] Unfortunately Oliver Hickmet could not be present.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Portfolio: Jesc Bunyard

Portfolio: Jesc Bunyard

“I have become accustomed to the darkness,” smiles Jesc Bunyard. “I spent most of the third year of my BA in the darkroom.” While the artist might be toiling away in the dark, Bunyard’s audience get to luxuriate in the sumptuously rich colours of the photograms that she produces – like cells of dye, they seem to breathe and expand as you gaze upon them.

Photography has always run through Bunyard’s practice, although filmic work grew within the second year of her BA at Goldsmiths (completed in 2013), where she also established a music group, comprising fellow artists and musicians. “Initially this developed out of a desire to push the photograph beyond its two-dimensional boundaries. I want the medium to be seen as something more than just a picture you can hang on a wall. So, I started by displaying my photograms alongside a soundtrack I created.” For Photo Piece, a collaboration with The Angel Orchestra, Bunyard’s photograms were used by the musicians as a visual score for an improvised piece, performed at a classical concert, with no warning to the audience. This intervention was described as “anarchic” by one of the musicians involved. A baritone horn player herself, Bunyard laughs: “I like to think of myself as setting up the parameters for a work and then unleashing it in order for it to be experienced and participated in.”

Jesc Bunyard will be showing two film works at Digital Graffiti, Alys Beach, Florida, 4-6 June 2015. She is a finalist in their juried art competition

She will also be showing some of her film works at the Wysing Arts Centre annual art and music festival, Space-Time: The Multiverse, on 5 September 2015

To see the full portfolio and enjoy the images, please see the June 2015 print issue of DIVA magazine 

Friday, 22 May 2015

Review of Sleepless: The Bed in History and Contemporary Art at 21er Haus, Vienna

Sleepless: The Bed in History and Contemporary Art
21er Haus, Vienna
30 January – 7 June 2015

Seeing that the 21er Haus, Vienna, was putting on an exhibition about the bed in history and contemporary art, thoughts immediately arose of Tracey Emin’s notorious My Bed (1998), but since that is currently on display as part of a BP Spotlight at Tate Britain, London, I was curious as to who else might have used this familiar and everyday motif in their work. Pretty much everyone, it seems. This tightly curated and fascinating exhibition brings together nearly 200 pieces, from an erotic fresco from Pompeii in the first century AD, displayed in front of a brothel, to, indeed, another of Tracey Emin’s beds (To Meet My Past, 2002), quite different from her previously Saatchi-owned exemplar, a beautifully appliqued and embroidered four-poster bed, remembering herself as a little girl, afraid of the dark.

The exhibition is broken down thematically, beginning with birth and moving through love, loneliness, illness, death, violence, politics, myth and the anthropomorphic. Each section is introduced by an informative and contextualising information board, and then the works are left to speak for themselves, opening up cross-cultural, cross-temporal and cross-spatial conversations.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Interview with Shannon Yee about Reassembled, Slightly Askew

Interview: Shannon Yee

Shannon Yee: Reassembled, Slightly Askew
Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast
30 April – 5 May 2015

In the run up to Christmas 2008, Shannon Yee (born 1978) and her partner Gráinne Close both had colds. When Yee began to see strange auras and slur her speech, however, Close rushed her to hospital, where they discovered that Yee was suffering from a sinus infection that had progressed into a life-threatening subdural empyema, a rare brain infection which, if left unnoticed for another hour, might have claimed her life. As it was, Yee spent three months in hospital, where, after a craniotomy to remove the pus and alleviate the pressure, a section of her skull was placed in her abdomen to keep it safe until she was well enough to have it replaced. During her time in hospital, which involved IV antibiotic treatment and a second (and later third) craniotomy when the infection returned, Yee was left paralysed down her left side for approximately three weeks. As a result of the infection, she now lives with an acquired brain injury, which affects her cognitive, emotional, behavioural and physical abilities – albeit not noticeably so from her outward appearance.

From early on, Yee, a playwright, knew that she was going to use her experiences to produce a new work. About a year into recovery, she began the creative collaboration that would lead to her immersive sonic artwork, Reassembled, Slightly Askew, which takes the audience on a whirlwind ride through her experiences of being, as the title suggests, “disassembled, and reassembled, slightly askew”. When I went to Belfast for the preview of this new work, despite having already met and spoken at length with Yee, I didn’t know what to expect. Arriving at the designated side room in the MAC at my appointment time, I was met by a nurse, who had me fill out a form and who then tagged me with a medical bracelet. I was then led into a darkened room – scented with hibiscrub – and shown to my bed, where I was to spend the next 48 minutes, with headphones and an eye mask, being transported to the intensive care unit where Yee woke up, hearing the voices of Close, Yee herself, her neurosurgeon and nurse, and, after her release, some of the sounds that surround us every day, but which we don’t notice, unless, like Yee, we have suffered something that makes us hypersensitive to noise. Experiencing this work really is something beyond words. Even Yee’s consultant neurosurgeon confessed: “I thought this was going to be something ‘arty-farty’. I had no idea it would affect me so profoundly and viscerally.” The work has potential on many different levels: as an art installation, as a theatrical piece and as a teaching tool.

Northern Ireland Tour Dates:

Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast
30 April – 5 May 2015

Down Arts Centre, Downpatrick
6-10 May 2015

The Playhouse, Derry
11-15 May 2015

Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart
18-22 May 2015

Burnavon Arts Cenre, Cookstown
25-29 May 2015

Island Arts Centre, Lisburn
1-6 June 2015

Arts & Disability Forum’s BOUNCE! Festival 
3-6 September 2015