Afternoon Dust


Legacies: JMW Turner and contemporary art practice

New Art Gallery Walsall’s current exhibition Legacies: JMW Turner and contemporary art practice brings together 16 works by Turner from the Tate collection with a number of examples of contemporary art that respond either directly to Turner or to the major themes of his work. There’s a lot of interesting stuff here, but I’d like to focus on a couple of highlights. The first is a series of sketches from Turner’s Whalers Sketchbook (c.1845), and the large painting Rough Sea with Wreckage from around the same time. What is striking about these works is their focus on colour, reduced forms, and perceived flatness (little or no illusion of three-dimensional space) that to this art history nerd immediately suggests a much later moment in the history of painting, that of Abstract Expressionism.

Faisal Hussain — Suspect Objects Suspect Subjects

Faisal Hussain - Muslamic Raygun, silver toy raygun with the word 'muslamic' written on it in stylized script.

Centrala have been nudging themselves into the heart of the artists’ colony of Digbeth for a couple of years now, but their new upstairs gallery and performance space has taken things to the next level (no pun intended). The large open room provides ample space to make a substantial statement, and Faisal Hussain is the latest artist to take advantage of the opportunity. His new show Suspect Objects Suspect Subjects brings together a number of sculptural objects reflecting themes of misrepresentation, prejudice, and suspicion, each accompanied by a text panel explaining the concept behind the work.

Jack Lavender and Joanne Masding

Joanne Masding - Plaster Ghost Finger Cast, irregular white plast sculptures on the walls and floor of a gallery space

Jack Lavender’s solo exhibition ‘Stones’ at Recent Activity’s delightfully awkward, misshapen space consists of a number of wall drawings in rich, earthy colours. Apart from the bones outlined on the side of the raised ‘stage’, the drawings consist of odd, irregular shapes and lines, as if more regular shapes had somehow been squeezed, squashed, and deformed by subsidence, tectonic plate movement, or the pressure of an ever-growing stratigraphy of sediments. In the context of the space, the drawings mirror the roughness and irregularity of the décor and architecture; forget about the context, and you’re no longer sure whether what you’re seeing is decades old, millennia old, or brand new.

Seecum Cheung — The Dutch Window

Seecum Cheung's The Dutch Window, large projection screen in front of a wall of orange curtains

Anyone who spends much time in the gallery of Birmingham visual arts space Grand Union inevitably falls in love with the windows that line the full length of two opposing walls, and many artists who exhibit there choose to make use of them in some way. Serendipitously, windows form a central theme and metaphor in British-born, Netherlands-based artist Seecum Cheung’s solo exhibition The Dutch Window, for which blinds and curtains have been installed to bathe the gallery in a soothing orange twilight.

Nottdance 2017: Dancing in public

A couple of weekends ago I was in Nottingham for Nottdance, a biennial festival of new dance. If I had the time I would write about everything I saw, because it was all brilliant, but things being what they are I’m going to have to focus on what were probably my favourite performances of the weekend, Rosanna Irvine’s Ah Kissing and Odori-Dawns-Dance’s Forest and Clearing.

Winter colours

On New Year’s Eve I went walking up Crookrise Crag on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park with my dad, who wanted to photograph the sunset. Given that it was the middle of winter and quite a dull day, I was expecting quite a grey and muted landscape. Imagine my surprise, then, upon finding a black earth carpeted with mosses of vivid green and red, and stones covered in multicoloured lichens.

Brightly coloured green and red moss

Brightly coloured blue and red lichen on a rock

Reimagining Donald Rodney

VIVID Projects are currently showing an exhibition of art by Donald Rodney, an artist from Smethwick who pioneered the use of technology in art in the Eighties and Nineties. Rodney suffered from sickle cell anaemia, a condition that would send him in and out of hospital for most of his life, eventually killing him in 1998. The first artwork encountered when entering the gallery, Autoicon, delves into this life history through various records and archival materials related to the artist, surfaced through a digital search interface (a ground-breaking novelty at the time). A film showing interviews of others affected by sickle cell anaemia is also included, with a search interface giving access to their thoughts and experiences in the same manner as the Autoicon.

Mitra Saboury — Pulling Walls

“Give me a boundary. I want to know when I’ve arrived.”

These words end Mitra Saboury’s Dry Wall, a short film in which the artist navigates, through words and crawling, floor-bound movements, an empty, dilapidated warehouse space. They articulate a need, pulsing through many of the films on show in her two-part Birmingham exhibition “Pulling Walls”, to investigate, to explore, to test, and to get to grips, in very literal ways, with the built environment around her, in order to know where she is in her own body.

Laura Oldfield Ford — Chthonic Reverb

The dérive was invented by the Letterist International in the 1950s, so it is said, though its roots go back much further, to Baudelaire’s notion of the flâneur and probably beyond. Pick an orientation, start walking; change direction on an impulse, an intuition, drawn by the name of a street, the shape of a traffic island, the forlornness of a tree. Be led by the city. This practice is central to Laura Oldfield Ford’s work as an artist, and the starting point of her new exhibition at Birmingham artist-run space Grand Union.

Manon de Boer — Framed In An Open Window

“The present could be the past; it is the past.”1