It’s a long time since I’ve reviewed an exhibition. It’s an even longer time since I reviewed an exhibition in which I have a piece of my own work. However, I have never reviewed an exhibition that I haven’t been in the physical presence of. This changes everything - you can’t walk around the works, move close in, step back, see them from across the room or from different angles. You can’t directly perceive colours, textures, shapes and even smells. This makes it much harder to have that physical and emotional response that can occur when you are directly exposed to a work of art.
There is also the factor of that solid gallery environment itself - the design and atmosphere of it, the light and how the works are placed within it. None of that applies here and the tool for leaning in and stepping back is a digital zoom. This means that the key factor in the presentation of this exhibition, and indeed any online exhibition, is the quality of the ‘gallery’ website, although the size and quality of the device you are viewing from is also a factor.
Over the past few Covid months I have looked at several online exhibitions and have become quite irritated by the way in which many of them are presented. Those that try and replicate the gallery experience are the worst. Your focus is inevitably taken up with often awkward navigation through virtual rooms and corridors. This makes the experience more like an estate agent's website, or a very dull game and just compounds the frustration of not being in an actual gallery space. Some sites seem to scroll with a life of their own and others try to jazz things up with unnecessary animation, either of the work or parts of the site. Don’t get me started on inappropriate musical accompaniment.
Given the amount of work in the show - 50 artists in all – it is hard to make this review comprehensive. However, I had a cunning plan. First, to go through and pick the pieces that were highlights for me - tricky exercise given the outstanding quality of the work and the fact that I really do like so much of it. Second, to ask a few people to look at the site and send me a couple of lines about works they particularly liked and why. So I am effectively crowdsourcing part of this review!
This should enable a wider appreciation of the show because people’s perceptions will be different so it is likely that they will choose different works. If everyone chooses the same work then that’s just testament to the appeal of that particular artist. So it works either way. Furthermore, all the comments I receive will then form a kind of digital visitors’ book.
I will begin with contextualising this show using part of the press release:
YOU ARE HERE explores how the concept of maps and mapping, internal and external, has informed living artists works and thoughts. This online exhibition presents a stimulating and visually striking grouping of works and spans drawing, video, sculpture, photography and installation from artists around the world.
The ‘You Are Here’ exhibition has been curated by two practising artists: Kate Trafeli, working out of London, and James Stewart, working out of Devon. The selections were chosen after evaluation by the curators, working in tandem remotely, from 400 submissions received in response to an open call request made by @katmapped. The works on show have been selected by the curators on the basis of the strength of the work presented combined with their relevance to the show’s theme.
Unprecedented times have changed how and where artists work, show their art, and what they are creating in an uncharted world. This online exhibition presents an avenue for artists and viewers to collectively participate in the arts while many museums, galleries and shows remain closed. This exhibition showcases living artists making engaging works around the world — and which when viewed together are thematically cohesive. Here, far flung geographies and lockdowns do not constrain us.
The exhibition opens with the three artists who received the curators' choice awards: Henry Burnett, Jon Halls and Tahira Noreen. I think all three are very well chosen. I particularly love the idea behind Henry Burnett’s Last Map. It works on so many levels that assemble themselves into layers of thought as you gaze in wonder at the sublime and delicate objects in front of you. Tahira Noreen’s work are other sublime pieces in which the originality of the idea tells a complete story of time and humanity, embodied in complex and beautiful wall sculptures. These work as exhibits online because you can get a sense of the entirety of them and see them close up. Jon Hall’s illustrated geographical story of London’s Green Belt, Drawing a Modern Myth, on the other hand, really needs to be seen in a gallery. It is very hard to appreciate what would be the impact of its scale in space, and to see its remarkable detail.
There is much in this exhibition that
is delicate and beautiful and this certainly applies to the work of
Rihanate Bigey who took the emerging artist award. Houses: the map of the houses
(deconstruction), is a sculptural installation
of porcelain and
plaster engraved with traditional
African/Burkinabes houses amidst cut out spaces that could be doors or windows
or just aspects of disintegration.It communicates very poignantly the fragility
that for whatever reason, can be easily destroyed or erased, and the consequent
dislocation and necessary reinterpretation of the notion of home itself.
The next piece that strikes me strongly is Mountains by Monika Ruiz. I love the perspective in these works and the way in which the contour lines overlay the aerial image. I particularly like the distorted hexagons that seem to wrap and constrain the mountains like discarded plastic packaging.
It is in the nature of the show’s theme that many pieces feature grids, gridlines, underlying structures and patterns and objects and things mapped or overlaid with other things. I particularly like A Sea by Liz Griffith, in which she transforms a decaying wall into a map, and Moscow XXI, Keri Millers superimposition of computer graphics onto a poster.
I also like Justin N. Kim’s piece in this show and how it suggests, to me at least, another level of relationship to the theme. It may be called Modern Age but it seems to map out the visual history of how it got there at the same time. I suppose it depends how you define ’modern’ but there is something about this work that encapsulates a longstanding and rich seam of American creative culture.
’s colourful and mesmerising Australia is another piece that is very hard to fully appreciate online. It has a depth to it that makes it frustrating to see online only. Definitely a piece of work that you want to look at sideways as well. ’s Fragile is a simple but quite profound idea, that at this point in time could easily be extended and applied to an entire map of the world.
There are several textile works in this show all of them completely different and beautifully conceptualised and expressed but the one I like most is ’s The Great Hill of Queen Maeve. I do love the contrast in texture, depth and content between the two sections of this piece but really I’m just a sucker for any harmonious use of the colour green. The gently overlapping shades in Lisa-Marie Price's Naturally Artificial are another lovely display of green's diverse spectrum.
Scrolling down the show and reaching
’s A Crack in the Record took my breath away. It was like standing on a cliff and looking down at a beach just before sunset when the light is low and picks up every golden glint of water on sand. Absolutely zero connection to what the work is actually about but thanks for that experience, which interestingly would probably not have happened in an orthodox gallery environment.
hank you @katmapped, not only for including me in this great show, but for inspiring me as a consequence to put fingers to keyboard.
You are Here 12 November – 12 December 2020 online at www.katmapped.org.
All images courtesy of artists and @katmapped
Part II - The Crowdsourced Review Book
Liz Griffiths, A Sea
This is an absolutely stunning and, it seems, a largely ‘as found’ wall. It’s beautiful. It looks part moon shot, part map, and it’s in Peckham and Peckham’s quite near to Penge, which is where I grew up.
Daniel Felipe Polania Title n#10
I understand from the description that this work is one of several that the artist has done that incorporate a painted depiction of what he’s photographed. It’s an inspiring idea, especially when the ‘micro painting’ in this case is placed directly on the depicted object.
Liz Clifford, Wheatham Hill - Byway 745, Observatory
Tahira Noreen, Baradari and others
I don’t fully understand how the artist has created these three ‘sculptures’ from cut-up hand-compressed paper but the effect is wonderful and highly imaginative.
What a range of interpretations! These are the ones that grabbed me:
Last Map by Henry Burnett
A strong emotive piece that almost cries out 'Walk in my shoes.' The delicate fabric and the fragile plant collected along the way tell of the casual stroll as much as the epic journey.
A Crack in the Record by Mark Clay
The artist's exploration of sound and silence is intriguing. Pauses in speech or music are as important as the words or the notes themselves. In visual art too, it is often the negative space that completes the image.
The Everyday by Ruth Selig
Eerily reminiscent of the brilliant blue skies of this year's Spring and Summer during the long lockdown. The convoluted form is as of one swimming in an uncharted sea.
AMANDA BIG BELIEVE
Having always loved Russian Propaganda posters, this work jumped out to me even though that is not what it is. The Russian alphabet always looks good in print, whether you can read it or not & sometimes better if you can't. In that way I see the whole poster as abstract. It works in the way the artist has intended it but also, for me, I enjoy seeing it as electrical charges fizzing out from a circuit board. It feels live. I love the limited colour palette. Striking red & black. The veins of a city. The white detail of the circuit board slightly muzzy & appearing as an aerial view of streets & buildings.
Vivid, lively, engaging. Simultaneously delicate and strong. I know I’m not ‘supposed' to look for images in abstract art, but I enjoyed the impression of flight, foliage, filigree and fish. Touch of the Vorticists about her work.
Tracy Davison, When is Daddy Coming Home?
This piece had an emotional impact on me that I feel uncomfortable about, because of its elements of rather sentimental Victorian melodrama: the snowy innocence of a beautifully-made small child's dress, on its little wooden domestic clothes hanger, with its stark and jarring decoration of a very harsh prison, plus embroidery reminiscent of chains or barbed wire. But it tugged at my heart strings!
Chloe Natalia, Australia
For me, litter is a finger on the pulse of mass consumption; yet we consume not just physical artifacts like drink cans and milkshake cartons, but ideas and opinions too. In the same way that we often eat food from a box or packet rather than cooking it from scratch, we also import ideas and mainstream media narratives ready-cooked, with little regard for or awareness of the ingredients, a fact that politicians are keenly aware of - hence the weaponizing of discourse through the use of barely-concealed or crudely constructed fictions and dissimulations. For me, this work speaks to the decay of intellectual rigour in public discourse, the consequent erosion of trust in political and social institutions, and the discarding of ideas and opinions as they are displaced by the latest media-generated fad .
Daniel Felipe Polania, Title n#10
I have always liked work that celebrates the mundane, and particularly the no-frills, matter-of-fact aesthetic of objects such as this - a traffic barrier on what appears to be an industrial estate. The implied implacability - lent added power by the low-angle of the original photograph - and the refusal of design elegance, is offset by the blue sky, the light and space suggesting optimism and freedom from cares contrasting with the utilitarian brutality of the barrier.
Lines on maps usually denote man-made borders, encountered when passing from one territory to the next. The contour lines in Monika Ruiz-B’s work remind us of the natural borders, extreme terrain that people pass through to escape the ravages of their homeland. ‘Borders without Limits’ does not attempt to prettify the landscapes, but rather draw our attention to each hard square mile of a traveller’s journey on foot.
Mark Clay, A Crack In The Record
There’s a beautiful warm light caught in this image. The copper ink drawing allows for ambiguity and interpretation by the viewer - the work is indeed reminiscent of rings on a fallen tree, grooves on a melting vinyl record, or plough lines in a sunlit field.
Zones by Ronald Gonzales appeals because
it very much reminds me of my friend Jolyon's work with found objects
..simplicity and solidity, very appealing ....recycling into art ..perfect. Day in Day out 4 by Bethe Bronson very much appeals to the
photographer in me. The work involved in creating such an image via a pinhole
camera reminds me of the time and effort required to creating
a photograph back in the pre- digital, pre photoshop days ......end
result is very pleasing on the eye. Standing stones-walking map by Martha Oatway.
Lovely idea and very beautiful and delicate looking ..kinda reminds me of
animals skins/hides or dyed fabrics stretched out to dry in the sun.....
perhaps a Native American encampment or an African tribal
Zones by Ronald Gonzales appeals because it very much reminds me of my friend Jolyon's work with found objects ..simplicity and solidity, very appealing ....recycling into art ..perfect.
Day in Day out 4 by Bethe Bronson very much appeals to the photographer in me. The work involved in creating such an image via a pinhole camera reminds me of the time and effort required to creating a photograph back in the pre- digital, pre photoshop days ......end result is very pleasing on the eye.
Standing stones-walking map by Martha Oatway. Lovely idea and very beautiful and delicate looking ..kinda reminds me of animals skins/hides or dyed fabrics stretched out to dry in the sun..... perhaps a Native American encampment or an African tribal village.