Photography, video, painting and installation exploring the banal, the obsolete, the decay and reconstruction of the post-industrial city. Features works by Laurence Ward, Emily Cole, Samantha Donnelly, Rosie Greenhalgh, Alex Hill, Joe Mawson, Yu-Chen Wang, Helena Ben-Zenou, Vanessa Rolf, Duncan Campbell, Miranda Donovan and Dan Dubowitz.
'Space is transitory, place has a central core of permanence. Idealised space is fine, non-existent space inverts its own rules. In the production of actual space, time is crucial. The marks of time are not those of material against environment. Time is about the loosening of control - the idealised space being replaced by real space'. (Steven Gartside, Model Forms: Sculpture/Architecture in 1950s and '60s Britain, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds 2002).
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Piles #1, 2005
|Heaps of earth, anonymous industrial structures on liminal spaces between city and wasteland, occupy these works by Laurence Ward and Emily Cole. Ward photographs the urban environment documenting the city's evolution and decay, giving presence to places where transitions occur and mess and incongruities remain - obsolete spaces, the overlooked, banal or inconsequential, underscored with irony and humour. Their frankness and seriality recall German artists Bernd and Hilla Becher's photographs of blast furnaces, cooling towers and mine shafts, which they began in the 1960s. Emily Cole's paintings explore the transient experience of the urban - views half seen through the train window or rear window of the car. Urban and pastoral landscapes are painted in a semi-abstract style, foregrounding a strange beauty, suggestive of the blur of travel. Inspired by American photographer Ed Ruscha, Cole invests the banality of the car park with the same majesty of a rolling hill. || || |
Study of forms (Iceland), 2006
An Unimaginable Scale, 2006
|Ideal architectural forms, floating in space figure in Samantha Donnelly's 'Study of Forms (Iceland)', 2006 and Rosie Greenhalgh's 'An Unimaginable Scale', 2006. Aside from the reference to Iceland, both works evoke a kind of 'placelessness' - generic structures set within a vacuum of empty space, harking back to the modernist ideal of form following function. Donnelly investigates ideas around space and time through intuitive processes, using drawing, installation and video to create abstract assemblages. Recent works range from describing the edges found in geological features of the landscape, to the inconsistency of architectural styles in cities that embody and punctuate social space. Greenhalgh explores the collision of the urban with the rural: de-humanised modernist buildings float amidst sanitised, white backgrounds foregrounded by sensuous trees, bereft of roots or a sense of place. Clinical white spaces, stripped of any extraneous matter seek to represent the fringes of our urban existence and reveal them to be sterile, dehumanised environments. || || |
The Other Building, 2006
|Alex Hill and Joe Mawson's photographs of the urban landscape manipulate and contort the real. Through photographic trickery their works miniaturise the monumental sprawl of the construction site, scale down the new city-slick apartment blocks now occupying former wastelands and obsolete spaces. Hill's photographs comment on the constructed environment and the dominance of the hyper-real, where the world assumes the role of the 'theme park', as reality is distorted and authenticity questioned through misrepresentation. Mawson, currently based here in Leeds, explores the spatial narratives presented by the post-industrial city. These surreal images manipulate the relationship between the body and the built environment: by distorting the sense of scale his views of the city become complex and playful dioramas, released from the grasp of the urban developer.|
Wall Work No 4, 2005
|Transitory sites of construction - the image of the city as unfixed, in a perpetual state of becoming - figure in the work of Yu-Chen Wang and Helen Ben-Zenou. Taiwan-born Wang's video art takes a social and political perspective on the influence of contemporary urban myth upon the city landscape. The video 'Reconstruction', 2005 presents the scene of reconstruction in East Berlin's city centre with the Alexanderplatz - an iconic German landmark - at its centre: the place where geo-political history, subculture and contemporary commercial activities collide. Ben-Zenou's paintings explore the transitory and contradictory identity of cities through the production of urban landscapes, in particular industrial landscapes - factories, docklands, industrial sites, and the transitory structures of construction. The paintings sit somewhere between abstraction and representation and incorporate industrial materials redolent of cities, industry and building - marble dust, limestone dusts, cement and various industrial paints - to transfer the subject matter directly to the canvas.|
Falls Burns Malone Fiddles, 2003
|A sense of place is evoked in the very differing practices of Vanessa Rolf and Duncan Campbell. For Rolf, the journey as a physical experience is the main focus of her work. She looks at the relationship between the geography, the mapping of movement and the recorded experience of place, taking inspiration from travel literature, maps and documentary photographs to evoke the transient and ethereal qualities of journeys. 'Kransnoyarsk', 2004 is a textile work inspired by the Siberian landscape - a place defined by its remoteness, its cold and its terrible history of exile - capturing the essence of place through texture, stitch, print and colour. Irish-born Duncan Campbell's 'Fall Burns Malone Fiddles' (2003) is a video work which pieces together a series of black and white still images of depressed neighbourhoods and young working class people, sourced from a Belfast archive. Underscored by dark humour, the soundtrack is a rhythmic monologue voiced in an almost uncomprehensible Scottish dialect (by the actor Ewen Bremner, Spud in the film Trainspotting), combining excerpts from dense sociological theory with a muddy stream of consciousness.|
You Can't Escape, 2005-2006
|Miranda Donovan's 'You Can't Escape', 2005-2006 and Dan Dubowitz series of 'Peeps' installations (from 2004) share an interest in the walls of urban space, as a means of both revealing and concealing the detritus of the city. 'You Can't Escape' pictures a scene of urban decay sited somewhere between the edge of an obsolete business park and ugly wasteland, painted onto a highly textured ground. Like Ben-Zenou, the artist uses industrial materials, here carving into the canvas to create the illusion of a brick wall. Graffiti is used as a means of mark making and, aside from its universality and illegal status, interests Donovan as a channel for the individual to make a mark and find a voice, albeit temporary and encoded. Dan Dubowitz's 'Peeps' project, beginning in 2004, is a series of apertures built in to walled up spaces sited throughout Ancoats, an area of Manchester undergoing regeneration. All of the 'peeps' look into places that have been permanently immured (walled up) into the fabric of the city as it has been rebuilt over time: peeps into spaces such as a tunnel, a bell tower, and a room in a mill walled up since the war. You may stumble across this artwork: no one will know quite how many there are or where they are. At present not all of the peeps are accessible to the public; the transformation will occur in 2007 when the regeneration scaffolding is dismantled to reveal the plethora of new housing developments in Ancoats.|
Liz Aston, November 2006.
Artists' CV & artwork pages