It's been a while since I have been to Middlesbrough, and in that time a number of new spaces have opened as art galleries and the art scene seems to have developed. I went to check out a few exhibitions at a mixture of familiar and less familiar spaces.
"Gutter Words is a complex book work and the culmination of a 10 year enquiry which aims to explore the sculptural space of language, the book and its physical connection to the body.
Working with an edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, Hamill systematically obliterated the words of Joyce but carefully retained those words positioned closest to the gutter – the technical term used to describe the central margin of a bound page.
Gutter Words, is also presented in the form of a book. Hamill explores the relationship between the book, as a sculptural space and the role the body plays in activating this physical space. Notable here is how design and typographic terminology is so entrenched in bodily references. Header, footer, body-copy, the arm of a ‘K’, the crotch of a ‘Y’, the foot of a ‘T’, the ear of a ‘G’, the shoulder of an ‘R’ and so on. As is the architectural scaffolding of Joyce’s schema which underpins the structure of Ulysses; kidney, genitals, heart, lungs, esophagus, brain, blood, ear. etc."
The most interesting part of this artwork for me was the seemingly unconnected series of words that were paired due to their position in the gutter. However, it was lacking in terms of visual appeal.
Hamill chose to display the vinyl words in two vertical columns, starting with those from the first page in the book. The simplicity of the two columns effectively signified the gutters. They began on the right wall and spanned the length of the gallery along the floor and up the left wall. I felt distracted by the additional column that had been added on one of the side walls as it diverted my attention.
LEGACY - 50 years of Painting in the Tees Valley
"The exhibition brings together the work of 30 artists that tells a story of painting in Tees Valley spanning 50 years, tracing a lineage of painters who have influenced and supported each other in various ways. Established and emerging practices sit side by side to acknowledge the impact and importance of painters who have taught, mentored and championed each other marking a continuum of knowledge sharing, generosity and trust across generations."
It was refreshing to see such a mixture of paintings and styles and recognise the strength of painting within the Tees Valley.
After spending a couple of hours in galleries without heating (on what seemed like the coldest day of the year), I was relieved to arrive at MIMA to defrost before returning to the studio in Newcastle.
For Many Voices
For Many Voices is Mikhail Karikis's first large-scale survey exhibition presented at MIMA (UK). In each of the 5 rooms was a different audiovisual installation. I was particularly moved by Sounds from Beneath.
"Sounds from Beneath (2011-2012) centers around a sound work for which the artist Mikhail Karikis asked a community of a former coal miners’ choir to recall and vocalise the industrial sounds of a working coal mine, which they used to hear when they worked in the pits. Karikis located the former Kentish coalmine where the men used to work, and upon completing the sound work he invited the artist Uriel Orlow to collaborate on a video which depicts the desolate colliery brought back to life through the miners’ song. The sunken mine transforms into an amphitheater resonating sounds of former underground explosions, mechanical clangs cutting the coal-face, wailing alarms and shovels scratching the earth, all sung by Snowdown Colliery Male Voice Choir grouping in formations reminiscent of picket lines."
The sound alone was powerful; but the vastness of the landscape featured in the video emphasised the emptiness that the miners could have felt when they were no longer working together down the coal mine. Such textured and layered sounds would only be possible to achieve when in a group, and seeing the men united and singing together emphasised their collective spirit.