The Catlin Art Prize is now in its sixth year. Where has time gone?! It seems like only yesterday that I attended the bustling prize ceremony at the Tramshed which, incidentally, is now about to reopen as a restaurant.
The prize presents some of the best graduates from art schools across the UK, one year after their degree shows where they were first spotted by curator Justin Hammond.
Tom Howse, Spherical Manoeuvres and Lemuria. Image courtesy of Peter Hope and via www.artcatlin.com.
This year’s exhibition has taken over the Londonewcastle Project Space on Redchurch Street (I’ll be there a lot next month for the debut exhibition of Gérard Rancinan’s Wonderful World) with works by finalists Greta Alfaro, Gabriella Boyd, Poppy Bisdee, Jonny Briggs, Max Dovey, Tom Howse, Ali Kazim, Adeline de Monseignat, Soheila Sokhanvari and Julia Vogl. Each artist had to create a brand-new work, or works, for the show to demonstrate their progress.
Julia Vogl, Let’s Hang Out. Own photograph.
This Project Space is extremely versatile and, once again, it has really been transformed with amazing low-level lighting and new walls. There’s something mysterious about the ambience of this hang and the exhibition makes use of the space in a way that I haven’t seen before. I was lucky enough to be shown around by the curator when I had a sneak peak yesterday.
I remember Max Dovey from Wimbledon, where he had created a performance piece about social media. His ideas were great and he was an obviously flamboyant character but I wasn’t 100% sure what to make of him. Here, he has produced a physical work rather than a performance, a more sedate piece looking at The Last Day of TV through a series of five box sets containing the final analogue broadcast from each terrestrial channel recorded live on 3rd and 17th April 2012. The work is a final riposte to all the recent exhibitions inspired by the digital switch-over.
Max Dovey, The Last Day of TV. Own photograph.
The piece that I couldn’t stop looking at was Hairy Eye Balls (her nickname for the work) by Adeline de Monseignat. I glanced at it and was about to hurry past until Hammond told me to take a closer look; “Did you see it move?” he asked. The fur is motorised and this ‘figure’, stuffed in a glass sphere, seems to be breathing, surrounded by eggs. Once you realise what’s going on it’s mesmerising. Even though it evokes ideas of something being trapped, I didn’t find it threatening or suffocating. Mother HEB/Loleta also references Hoffman’s The Sandman where a madman steals children’s eyes after blinding them with sand, but I found it calming and restful – maybe I’m a tad odd… If anything, for me, it’s too subtle and if I hadn’t have been told, I’m not sure I would have noticed or fully appreciated this ‘creapture’.
Adeline de Monseignat, Mother HEB/Loleta. Own photograph.
Greta Alfaro’s photographs show the results of her recent installation in Mexico City. Hammond explained how Alfaro recreated a chapel in a former Church which she then covered with meringue and invited people to eat from the walls, exploring our perception of permanence and vanitas.
Greta Alfaro, Invencion 1,2,3. Image courtesy of Peter Hope and via www.artcatlin.com.
I actually loved nearly everything in this show – Jonny Briggs and Tom Howse both deserve attention and it will be interesting to see where they go next. Poppy Bisdee’s This Time Yesterday shows a video of what occurred in the space one day previously. Anyone walking round the exhibition this afternoon will have seen me taking a look yesterday – I’ll be part of the piece (for one day only). Hammond says that by being displayed in a room between the two main exhibition spaces he has encouraged visitors to pass through. He likes the idea that the piece will ultimately function as a diary of the Catlin Art Prize.
Poppy Bisdee, This Time Yesterday. Own photograph.
Finally, I think I have to mention Julia Vogl’s Let’s Hang Out, a communal area created by coloured tiles that visitors can stick to the wall. The area will change and evolve – although I can’t help thinking that the walls will always be predominantly mustard in colour.
Julia Vogl, detail of Let’s Hang Out. Own photograph.
The only slightly strange thing about this show (call me old-fashioned) are the QR codes, rather than printed information, on the wall labels. Now my Blackberry doesn’t yet have a QR scanner so this wasn’t that useful for me. Maybe I need to download an app before my next visit.
This is really good art and all the finalists have shown thought-provoking progressions since their graduate displays. It’s also a beautifully curated exhibition showing off Hammond’s skill and eye for picking the talent. This is one that I will return to and is a must-see for this month. Make sure you vote for your favourite artist in the ballot box at the entrance to the venue to help someone win the inaugural visitor vote.
The same evening I popped into Haunch at Eastcastle Street to see The Observer which, in comparison, proved to be a rather bland show. Bringing together six artists, the exhibition looks at how they use fragments of existing images to create new realities. Maybe I’m being unfair and too harsh, but I don’t think these works went far enough to engage with the shared sense of crisis they were meant to discuss. For me their tensions were too surface-based.
Patricia Piccinni, The Observer. Own photograph.
Well worth seeing, however, are the two works by Uwe Wittwer that convey an ephemeral atmosphere, an idyll perhaps on the verge of tragedy. They’re hard to read but really express the ideas that this exhibition seeks to explore.
Uwe Wittwer, Caravan. Own photograph.
Wittwer’s works apart, if I had to choose I’d scurry back down to Shoreditch anytime for another look at the thing buried in the sand.
The Catlin Art Prize 2012 is at the Londonewcastle Project Space until 25th May 2012, www.artcatlin.com. The Observer is at Haunch of Venison, Eastcastle Street, until 7th July 2012, www.haunchofvenison.com.