Feebly armed with an amateur knowledge of art and an equally amateur skill for photography, I decided to attend my first ever art show last Thursday. Donning a fancy-shmancy silk shirt and my noisiest boots, I rushed in a whirlwind out of the house, afraid I was going to be late and appear unprofessionally tardy and rude. In classic fashion, I arrived unfashionably early.
Not knowing what to expect, I asked how to navigate the room and was told to go wherever I wanted to, which set the precedence for my evening. Whilst each work of art had its own story to tell, I almost felt like I could construct my own narrative by following the pieces in the order my gut was telling me to (or at least I told myself that was the case. I actually went around in a circle). The foyer-turned-gallery housed 8 pieces in an intimate and close setting, with corridors and corners creating even smaller areas in which you felt like you could connect to the pieces even more.
What struck me, however, was how in-tune with the world the pieces were as a collective. Starting with an exploration of the deterioration of the mind, I worked my way through until I had learnt and lived through the effects of mass media on the notion of beauty; the banal, yet so incredibly detailed, aspects of everyday life; travelled to the cosmos and straight back down to Earth again; swept through life in a blur and realised that nothing is ever in stasis; and back round again, with the profound notion that I had just seen the fastest, yet most dense, vision of life I’d yet to come across.
Florence Scorer’s work “The Degeneration of the Mind” was influenced by her grandmother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, and got me thinking about the relationship between memory and reality. Florence stresses that the piece is a celebration of her grandmother’s life, both past and present, as she did not want to bring any stigma surrounding the disease into her work. “It does not mean that her past has been erased,” Florence says, hoping that people took away the positives from the embroidery hoop display. Florence’s family, including her Nan, also visited the exhibition on the night, something that made Florence “slightly anxious” as her Nan didn’t remember giving permission for her pictures to be used on Florence’s embroidery hoops. “However, she responded to the piece so positively and was making sure that everyone knew it was her face printed everywhere”, Florence ensured me.
Another piece from the event that had a similar feel to it was Keira Ranger’s exploration of identity, in particular the withholding of identity from the viewer. “The distance from home whilst at university meant that I could experiment with the representations without constantly comparing these to their characters,” Kiera told me, citing this as the reason why she chose to portray her immediate family. When asked about the fascinating range of materials she used in her work, which gave the portraits a bumpy texture through which gauze and newspaper clippings could be seen, Kiera replied that it was something “both difficult and enjoyable” as it allowed “the print to come out clear enough to be recognised as a portrait without being altogether too detailed and losing the theme of withholding aspects of identity.”
I was also drawn to Sophie Teer’s fascinating glass etchings, which explored the notion of beauty. The plaque beside the plinth described the work as studying the effects of mass technology on what we expect from beauty, and Sophie’s attempt to transcend that. The choice of material was what drew me in particularly, and looked like it could have been one of the more challenging pieces to create. However, the challenge, Sophie told me, lay in the planning and the sourcing, as opposed to the creating. Upon mentioning that the work was difficult to photograph, Sophie told me that it wasn’t intentional but reinforced the whole idea of the work, which is “to see things from different/multiple perspectives; hence the works title [A Faceted Perspective]…you can never truly understand a person just from a photograph and the same applies to my work.” Hearing this, it made “A Fasceted Perspective” ironically clearer. You can’t understand Sophie, or anyone else for that matter, until you’ve actually met her.
The last two pieces I was immediately drawn to weren’t as concerned about depicting people, but were as equally personal as the others. Eva Viskovic’s exploration of the banality of interiors, was, on first glance, plain. And that’s exactly what it was meant to be. She was exploring what plainness meant to the interior and exterior of buildings, and how in their plainness, they could be so much more. For example, the space depicted in Eva’s triptych is actually her own room. She explains how it is “a space that I can associate with certain memories. The radiator featured may seem banal or ordinary, but it reminds me of comfort and warmth….I bought the plant from a near-by market after reading about the psychological and physiological benefits of houseplants, which I believed necessary in a stressful time of revision for exams.” This piece, and Eva’s words, remind me of the familiarity that we attach to inanimate, banal spaces, as well as the memories we implant onto them. A space is never really plain, it must mean something to someone, somewhere.
Finally, Isabel Stark’s “The Cosmos and The Self” proposed to show life on both a macro and a micro scale, from the entirety of the cosmos, down to its tiniest atom. Ever since she was little, Isabel says she’s always been attracted to how rich and visually attractive the cosmos is. Her passion truly shows, as Isabel’s research included visiting the University of Warwick laboratories to study cells closely, as she wanted to add some scientific integrity to her work. “I actually came very close to doing a biomed degree,” Isabel tells me. “I needed to know the exact environments and methods used to grow bacteria for my images and I was unable to achieve that without being in control myself.” Sticking to scientific integrity, Isabel created her work in petri dishes to resemble the cells she was attempting to depict, and then photographed them and hung them on the adjacent wall. Isabel also named each one specifically, using the technical names of galaxies such as the Antennae Galaxies, “NGC 4038, NGC 4039”, as well as the cells that she felt resembled them.
For my first visit to an exhibition, especially one without a theme or a curator, it felt surprisingly cohesive. Work about mass media resonated with another which explored movement, another about the life of trees felt natural sitting next to work about the cosmos and cells, and finally, there were the personal pieces, depicting faces, relatives, loved ones, themselves. I was definitely not disappointed , and it certainly helped that my fancy shirt was not a touch out of place.
All words are Hazal Kirci’s own. All art work featured is owned by their respective artists, as designated.