Thursday, June 09, 2011

Art Mash-Up

A few weeks I ago I went to an exhibition called “Pile”. The show included a diverse range of works – painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, textile and animation – by some 30 British artists. The interesting thing was that the work wasn’t set out like a typical group exhibition.

Rather than present each artist’s work in a defined area of wall or floor space, the pieces were grouped together throughout the gallery. Different pieces were leaning against each other, jostling for space like naughty children in a group photograph. In some cases, they were literally piled up on top of each other (the artwork, not the naughty children).

There was no sense of hierarchy or individual autonomy. It wasn’t always possible to tell where one piece ended and another started. It wasn’t possible, either, to tell which piece belonged to which artist. The collection of individual pieces became one large scale, multi-faceted exhibition … the vision of the curator rather than the individual artists.

This kind of mash-up made for a very interesting, exciting and engaging show. I went to see it three times. The “Pile” of art in this show broke down categorisations between artistic disciplines and challenged many of the viewer’s preconceptions about what constitutes “art”.

This has got a particular appeal for me in the context of where I work and who I work with. The studio in London is now home to I don’t know how many people who work there occasionally or with some regularity. Inviting people in is interesting because you start to see things through their eyes. Everywhere you look there are paintings, sculptures, drawing, photos, cutting, slogans, fabrics, samples. There are tables, desks, exposing units, sewing machines, easels and a loom. Every surface is covered and the floor is a mess. It’s a pile, a mash-up of ideas, inspiration, projects and cross-fertilisation. It’s a wonderful place to be and to make ‘stuff’.

And I like the idea of curating shows that have this ethos. Shows that have a serious intent but that are also joyful, intriguing and surprising.

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