The Best of British Watercolour at Mottisfont Abbey

It’s been a while since I posted on here, due to a house move and a new job start, which also means that this post is a little overdue as the exhibition closed at the end of June. However, I felt it needed a mention anyway.duckface

Firstly, the exhibition space is fantastic – my family and I are regular visitors to Mottisfont Abbey, as my parents are the kind of people whose idea of the perfect day is wandering around a house and garden, and I really like ducks (plus the second-hand bookshop is one of my favourites). The paintings are from the Southampton City Art Gallery collection and were shown in the upstairs of the abbey, and was the first exhibition I’ve seen in the space. Unlike a typical gallery, this National Trust site uses its character to complement the works, which are shown in rooms with ghosts of wallpaper and an emphasis on the previous tenants. The works range from landscapes to abstracts, and many of the artists are local.

Before this exhibition I was close-minded about the medium; it reminds me of learning to paint at school, and the futility of scraping one’s paintbrush over those little coloured blocks in the hope of creating rich, bold colour before the paper wrinkles up. But the pieces shown in this exhibition portray the diversity of the material – expressive line drawings with washes of colour; surrealist creatures on bright backgrounds; detailed and vibrant paintings of recognisable buildings around Hampshire. My particular favourites were the most contemporary pieces, but the more traditional examples have made me realise how versatile watercolour actually is.

(Sadly, because I waited so long to write about this, I have forgotten the examples I was going to give, and the public weren’t allowed to take pictures. I’ll be better next time, I promise!)

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Tom Joyce – I Ink Therefore I Am

Another great exhibition at the Southampton City Art Gallery. Shown in the foyer of the gallery, the space is hidden below the stairs, avoiding the thoroughfare of visitors and not hurrying people past the work. This is a crucial requirement, as the drawings are incredibly detailed and need time to be explored thoroughly.

Tom Joyce

Tom Joyce

Filled with expressive characters, ranging from birds to robots to trolls, the pieces are imaginative and comical. Recurring themes in the scenes include crowds, homes, and skulls. Much like the baroque period, Joyce’s skull motif acts as a constant reminder of our own transience. This contrast in tone adds a further dimension to his work, and may be an attempt by the artist to make light of mortality by forming a symbol of death from funny and adorable characters. Of these pieces, I like the butterfly skull the most, partly because of its reminiscence to Damien Hirst’s work.

His use of negative space to form text, seen in some of his more recent work, portrays how versatile his style is and the potential it holds. Having the sketchbooks on display allows the audience to explore the process behind the framed pieces, particularly relevant as it is being shown alongside the Drawn together, Drawn apart exhibition upstairs in the main gallery.

The exhibition is on until the end of February 2013. His work can be seen, and purchased, here:

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Gary Stevens

Known for his film pieces that draw attention to details of the everyday, I viewed a collection of Stevens’ work at Southampton City Gallery recently, in his show Now and Again. One piece in particular captured my attention.

Wake Up and Hide (2007) is an interactive video piece, with two videos shown in this case as large projections adjacent to one another, nearly filling the wall in a darkened room. The audience enters the room, where they can sit on a single bench in the centre with a clear view of both, although the area is large enough for this to walking through the echoing hall.

Each video shows a room, almost identical apart from minor details and the angle it’s shot from. As the video progresses, the rooms slowly fill with people. In one, they appear tense when they enter the room from behind furniture, but recline in the seats available and relax until they slide onto the floor, asleep. In the other, the people creep out from hiding places and take up hesitant seats in the room, staring out of the screen and breaking the fourth wall, as if they are aware of the audience.

The video is made to respond to sound. When a member of the audience breaks the silence, the members of the videos react. Those that have, or would have given the time, fallen asleep, wake up and run away. The others, having retained awareness of the existence of the audience throughout, run to their hiding places.

Aside from being an incredible feat of creation, as at any given point the audience may make a noise [walking into the room, coughing, or talking at a normal level is enough to scare them off] so there must be a reaction for all of these possibilities, the work explores the relationship between the art, the audience and the space. Museums, galleries, and libraries alike are prescribed with an expectation of silence. The environment can be stifling and oppressive, encouraging thought and reflection rather than conversation and debate. This conflicts with much of the aesthetic new media strives for, which encompasses all the senses. New media exhibitions, such as decode at the V&A (2010) and the art fair Kinetica, provide the audience with work they are encouraged to interact with, but are often isolated from the rest of the exhibition, or cause conflict with the other work.

Exhibiting the work in this gallery space allows the audience to approach it in a familiar environment and then be confronted by the necessity to break the silence. The temptation to play undermines the expectations of the audience, while the privacy of the room is a catalyst for exploration of the piece.

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An Introduction


I’m a recent graduate of Fine Art from the UK, working in a bookshop and doing creative things when I can to keep me in the art world loop. That’s me on the right.

While my work spans a variety of media, I am especially interested in the use of text and print-making. Key themes in my work are communication – especially in the Information Age – and relationships, the archive, and surveillance.

I like data visualisation, new media, and interactive pieces. Expect posts about my work, exhibitions I visit, and various art world events.

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