Sunday, 7 December 2014

Sad Day at Spacex ... But High Hopes for 2015

It was a sad day today (21 November) at Spacex, as I did my final volunteer shift. The exhibition programme has been curtailed now that Spacex funding has been slashed by the Arts Council, and Scott King’s De‑Regeneration was the last show in the current programme - at least until the outcome of a new funding bid is known.

This week has been especially busy for Spacex staff with the new bid being finished, a visit by Exeter Uni Arts Society to the gallery, and a series of workshops with primary school children. The last of these was on Friday afternoon.

The kids took a tour of the exhibition and then made their own images and models using projectors, wire, scrap store materials - and a lot of imagination. Despite, or perhaps because of, the weather we also had a number of adult visitors who seemed to enjoy viewing the exhibition alongside the lively and enthusiastic 6 year-olds. 

Although not to everyone’s taste, for me this has been a good exhibition to finish with. It combines humour and cartoon art with some serious questions about the role of public art. It is a hard balance to pull off well but I think that Scott King managed it. The kids particularly enjoyed the illuminated pylon, and a number of them made excellent models of it in the workshop sessions. 

Spacex will continue to run events in the gallery during the first quarter of 2015. Then, hopefully, it will be back with a new programme of exhibitions and activities, subject to the approval of new funding by the Arts Council. We’ll all keep our fingers crossed.

Spacex in the 1980s

You can still add a message of support on the Spacex website here (messages will not appear until they have been moderated).

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Spacex: Scott King De-Regeneration (ends 22 Nov)

You will probably have heard by now that Spacex has lost most of its exhibition funding from the Arts Council, and as a result this will be last 'normal' exhibition that it will be showing for a while (showings are already limited to Thursday to Saturday). The gallery is bidding for funding which will support a future programme, but the outcome remains uncertain. However, in the meantime, you can record your support and/or recollections of Spacex on the Support Spacex website page. The more people that show their support for the gallery, the greater the pressure on the Arts Council to help fund future projects.

The current exhibition features the work of Scott King. As it says in the gallery blurb: "Scott King's work frequently addresses iconic and 'monumental' imagery, with the artist often producing prints and sculptures that refer to and question political ideologies". The work does not disappoint. The long wall in the main gallery contains a cartoon strip which tells the story of the Afghan government and their Western government sponsors commissioning Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley to produce monumental art that will save the country, nurture captalism, and lead to a happy ending for the Western powers ...

Other pieces include visualisations of deploying coloured balloons to regenerate rundown areas, and statues of Rock Gods in the Thames Estuary (I recognised a couple of the Feelgoods, and what I presumed to be Peter Gabriel, but the fourth geezer defeated me).

This is a cool exhibition, particularly if you have a thing for comics & politics and a scepticism about monumental public art (which I do), and is a good example of why Spacex is still relevant and needed in Exeter. Hopefully, if enough support is shown, Spacex will be back in business in 2015 (and, perhaps, a bit more user-friendly than in the past?) Who knows?

You have until 22nd November to see this show.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

SW Academy Open and Four Go Mad in Teignmouth

South West Academy Open

During the rest of this week you can catch the South West Academy Open exhibition at St Stephens in Exeter (opposite Urban Outfitters) . Exhibitors include old friends Anna Grayson & Des Maxwell Clark, and Maureen Fayle from Teignmouth, who received a well-deserved commendation for her picture of Hay Tor.

Four Go Mad in Teignmouth

While most of the 2014 Devon Open Studio exhibitions are now finished, the work at TAAG remains on show until Saturday. The artists are Angie Jenner, Julia Vella, Amy McCarthy and Michelle Greenwood Brown and the work includes mosaics, glasswork, and some innovatory illuminated painting.

Glass work by Amy McCarthy

Also on show at the TAAG gallery are some colourful abstracts by Paul Ansell, which are well worth a look. Both the Teignmouth and Exeter exhibitions finish on September 27th.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Phil Root at Spacex to 13th September - Final Week

This week is your final opportunity to see Phil Root's installation, Phantom Limb, at Spacex. The work has been put together specifically for Spacex and is a fun but potentially thought-provoking exhibition.

As it says in the blurb, "Phil Root references history and memory, producing artworks through a process of intuitive layering and erasure of both physical and historical attributes."

The work originated in a collection of corroded and damaged coins. Phil has manipulated the coin images and explored the connections with trade and social labour, while producing blown-up pictures which could be distant moons or views through a microscope.

An eery soundtrack adds to the ambiguous atmosphere. Standing in front of the trestle table in the main gallery is, on one level, like standing on an alien craft - but with echoes of trading schooners from the distant past.

In the projection gallery a video tells the story of the Phantom Limb and there is a peek beyond at a hidden layer or image. 

You have until Saturday 13th September to catch this spare but cleverly constructed show.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Michael Takeo Magruder at Hannah's, Seale Hayne

If you admire Ben Yates' electronic creations then you will probably want to see Michael Takeo Magruder's digital work - Living Data - on show at Seale Hayne, just outside of Newton Abbot. This is a mixture of digitally created hard copy art and screens which are fed by PCs, linked to the internet.  Here are some photographs which illustrate the work:

Each of the displays applies an algorithm to an internet information source to produce unique digital visuals. For example, the second work above draws upon a live market feed from the Dow Jones Index to produce its images, while Data_plex (babel), immediately above, is generated by tapping into the top ten topics trending on Twitter, as explained in the exhibit label below:

This exhibition shows just one aspect of Magruder's work. Copies of his 100+ page book, (re)mediation_s 2000-2010, with many colour photos and interesting essays by academics covering (Derrida's) Deconstruction, (CP Snow's) The Two Cultures, The Art of Remembering, and more are available at the exhibition for ten quid. This is a bargain, particularly as the book can no longer be bought on Amazon.

The results can be very 2001: A Space Odyssey ... or Doctor Who ...


The display above draws upon images of flowers showing on Flickr (as in the monitor below) and produces a hybrid form which changes - in sync - as new images are posted.

This is a fascinating exhibition. The works seem to be live - which of course they are, insofar as they are responding to the collective actions of thousands or millions of people using the internet. It is impossible to get a realistic impression of the ever-changing images showing on the monitors from still photographs. You really need to visit the exhibition, which is part of the Digital Invasion season at Seale-Hayne, and runs until September 1st.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Art in the Sun: August 9-10 (final weekend)

Yesterday I went along to the Art in the Sun exhibition in Ingsdon, Newton Abbot. The exhibition features the work of five artists in a barn and in the surrounding woodlands and is well worth a visit. It includes Ben Yates' studio where you can see his electronic creations. When I visited, Ben kindly spent some time explaining to me how he creates these pieces and answering my questions.

Ben Yates (at TAAG)

I've previously seen Ben's awesome creations when he was exhibiting at TAAG, and posted some photos in my blog. In the current exhibition you can also see a number of his clever photocubism pieces - photographs combined with wood cubes of varying depths (are they still cubes?) - unusual and nicely executed work.

'Photocubism' by Ben Yates

There is also some beautiful sculpture and mixed media work by Luci Coles; and op art (mainly different diamond configurations) by Bob Bruce.

Luci Coles

The other artists are Harbz, who brings a touch of urban grit to the exhibition, and stained glass pieces by Amy McCarthy.

Amy McCarthy (Yarner Woods)

This is a fascinating mix of work displayed in an idyllic setting, when the sun is shining. I only hope that this weekend remains dry and that people get the chance to get along and see it.

The location is just beyond the turning for Hannah's, on the A383 out of Newton Abbot - so you could easily combine this with a visit to the absorbing exhibition of digital work by Michael Takeo Magruder at Hannah's. I'll be posting about this shortly.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Reflect Crediton Exhibition - ends Saturday 9 August

I went to Crediton today and visited the exhibition 'Reflect Crediton' which features the works of Tim Backhouse, Paul McCullough and Nicci Wonnacott. To quote from Tim Backhouse in the Crediton Courier: "The work is based upon social, historical and cultural aspects of Crediton and touches upon a wide variety of themes such as the Link Road, World War One and aesthetic considerations in and around Crediton.” It is an installation-based show including film, sound, sculpture and drawings.

It's been some time since I was in Crediton and there have been some significant changes. The town seems quite vibrant and less shabby than I remember. But it also has a massive Tesco store on its doorstep and a ring road which is not yet open. As an outsider, I can see that these developments are likely to have been contentious - and this forms one of the themes explored in the show.

When you enter the old town hall, which is now the town museum, there is an exhibit marking the anniversary of the first world war and reflecting the involvement of people from Crediton. The 'Reflect' exhibition flows on from this, starting with a 'WAR DECLARED' banner and a moving video of wounded soldiers returning from the front, overlaid with a modern soundtrack of children at play.

The main hall contains a number of works by each of the exhibitors. The hall is dominated by a 30ft nude by Paul McCullough - a 'panoramic drawing which echoes the rolling hills, valleys, hidden woodlands and open fields of the Mid-Devon landscape'. It is a beautifully executed work.

Another McCulloch work explores people's feelings about the routeing of the Crediton bypass:

Amongst her four works on show, Nicci Wonnacott is showing her contribution to the Neoreplicants exhibition at Exeter Phoenix - a representation of 'The Woman in White' decorated with the 'white man's bones' and invoking the Ghost (and Death) of Capitalism:

Another piece is 'White Rocks, the Borderline':

But my favourite piece of Nicci's is 'White Rags, MH17-298, Homage to the innocent victims of war':

Tim Backhouse was stewarding on the day I visited and I am grateful for his insights. The most striking of his works is the film showing a continuous journey around the unopened Crediton bypass which is accompanied by opera playing on an old record player. The film is mesmerising, the more so because the highs and lows of the operatic soundtrack appear to accompany the action in a meaningful way, even though they are not synchronised.

In all, this is an excellent and thought-provoking exhibition. If you get the chance to catch it over the next few days, then I commend it to you ... and you can enjoy a day out in Crediton, like I did today.