Carnival Glass

Carnival Glass

curated by Archie Franks

Lewis Betts, Freya Douglas-Morris, Grant Foster, Brian Griffiths, Lydia Hardwick, Archie Franks, Lana Locke

PV: 4 Dec 15 | 6 – 10 pm

5 -18 Dec 15 | 11 Jan – 23 Jan 16

Archie Franks, participant as well as organiser of this exhibition, is apparently relaxed in the way he deals with material and subject. He suggests that all the work in ‘Carnival Glass’ displays a ‘liberal attitude towards the use of historical and art historical periods’. Franks is not suggesting the relationship between these works betrays some internal logic, however, yet it is true that the work carries an open, yet particular, range of reference, approach and result. Any mixed show can have a truly touching way of seeming to speak, material can seem to have so much in common. But what happened to that simplistic notion, so long ago, that there was a sense of line-up, an equality between image and reference? How do you position your self in terms of now, and before?

Really what the artists have in common is a generous construction and a proliferation of images. The experience of the work makes, perhaps, a luxurious experience, where the situation or place is given and we participate within that anticipation. They are not long out of art school, with the notable exception of Brian Griffiths whose concurrent exhibition at Baltic in Gateshead is a range of suggestion, place, and feelings presented in a clear and unconfusing manner. His work is not explicitly referring to the past as much as bringing material together that creates a collective mass of associative value, an over-all, all-over effect. As an artist who does not set out for perversity Griffiths manages to draw the curious, surreal, strange, known and unknown out of a regular heart beat of observation.
Archie Franks builds up paint for a foreshortened vision of still life with fruit and fish. Still life, already a non-subject, shows an artist wanting to inhabit the central point between observation and knowledge, to explore the way in which paint can both define and create with its own physicality. Franks is interested in the ‘carnivalesque’ and his work shows a relation to post-impressionist classicism, the Italian Guttusso, for instance; someone already there within the history of the medium rather than outside and dipping back in. Lana Locke uses a range of material that is at once charming, off putting, reliable and disposable. Locke brings elements into an almost virtuoso vision to make a sense of place. A pumpkin on a pole, elements on the floor, the work creates a virtual room of relativity.

Freya Douglas-Morris makes something happen by painting a place or space, setting figures in, drawing up and drawing in, with a perfunctory touch that still manages to situate a progression of incongruous figures, through a tenuous but plausible space. Grant Foster uses wash, sweep and sweet colour to be there too with pictorial language; where the eradication of paint from the surface allows anger to somehow seep through the making; with children, dirt, and even loneliness drawing a sense of hope out of nostalgia. Foster allows a trigger mechanism of understanding, a statement of intention in painting just, a sweet version of Lewis Betts’ back to front banners. Betts works on the floor with the expectation of a graphic understanding. A sign, a banner, the drawing will look slight, untrammelled , even un ‘hung up’. Instead the banner, or statement, however loose, lends itself to a signposting of expectation and experience. The sign becomes a contemporary object in the now less political manner of an iconic poster from Paris 1968.

Lydia Hardwick’s ceramics appear clear in their role. Painted, with a range of possibility, the stroke of brush and dots on the surface, to make a souvenir or totem that denotes a simplistic currency.

Maybe fear of excess, a sort of moralism did stalk the corridors of art school and creep into minds in the huge gap between then and now. The resultant fear of a public display of affection, of theatrical showing off, has evaporated. Material in itself always carries association, as Griffiths illustrates, and the combination of construction and association is true to all this work. Most of the artists in this exhibition have recently been selected for New Contemporaries, the highly competitive annual send in exhibition, Griffiths was an exhibitor and selector some time ago. The work has had to stand out each time in order to claim its own space.

Written by Sacha Craddock for Block 336

© Sacha Craddock