MSB brainstorming

28 January 2007

Belcher, from the UK: Terra Incognita???.....hardly...

Terra Incognita: Parade 1: Review

First of the Angel Row Nottingham's attempts (finally) to showcase the best art in Nottingham and adjacent ’shires’. As the work was ‘curated’ out of that submitted it gives a partial overview of where the City and surrounds stands in the ‘international art world’ or IAW for short. This particular IAW is spoon fed to artists, educators and students as the only IAW i.e. the one that is commercially viable or supported by government subsidy. IAW is depicted and debated intensely in the kind of magazine you find in the resource room of the Angel Row Gallery.

The first thing that struck me on entering this show was that it certainly looked like a show in Miami, Dusseldorf or Madrid. There was an entertaining mix of genres. Projection, TV/video, painting and floor pieces. This fitted neatly into the kind of pictures the IAW likes to classify itself by….adventurous, cross-border etc etc.

But what of the work’s actual quality? Well the most striking and probably most effective piece was Anita R Mudaliar’s cut and paste black and white children’s book illustrations projected on the wall. Not only a genuinely creepy piece but one which grabbed your attention and did not let it go. The kabbalistic floor-pieces were slight, the ‘Silesia’ paintings were too close to Richter in Godley’s case to be truly original and he has better work elsewhere..these are playing to the gallery. The other painter was let down by bad placing and the photographs seemed to be straight out of the local college textbook of slightly surreal and oblique. Simon Withers collages without the content were a good idea realised badly and again suggested some back issue of Frieze or Artforum than a genuine match of form and content.

The curation was tight and there did seem to be a genuine attempt to mirror the trendy title.. 'terra incognita' indeed.. sadly not this particular world as it is one I have seen many times before and it’s called the IAW. There is a wealth of other ‘art’ and other experience in this corner of England but it did seem ( subsequent shows showcasing the same artists) that work was selected for its ability to mimic the curator’s ( all outsiders ) approach and wishes rather than a genuine attempt to grasp the realities of the place.
Taking chances is not in the developing curatorial remit perhaps.

On a positive note the sheer fact of having taken the plunge (financial practicalities and local politics aside..would this show ever happened but for the regenerative fallout of CCAN?) meant that we got to see a fairly thin slice of the art being produced here that believes it can be IAW compliant. Is it good? To be frank much of it was good enough but none of it was excellent. Nobody here is ever going to be A-List and that not carping that an aspect of reality that sometimes lost in the thrill of exposure. More realism about prospects, more interaction of good local artists with education and community and we have a better future. Without raining on the parade Nottingham and its artists and its people deserve and should get better.

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