Thursday, 30 May 2013

Review: 'the map is not the territory' at 44AD gallery

On the opening night of the Fringe Arts Bath, 44AD opened its doors for the map is not the territory exhibition, curated by Bath Spa University’s Curatorial Practice MA students. It gathers an assortment of materials, textures and tones which adapt and challenge the unique gallery space.

As soon as the viewer walks in, the gallery space unsettles him with Fiona Haines’s photo prints Way Out. Clashing greyscale palette with haunting neons, the artist explores the corridors of a de-commissioned hospital, void of people but still possessing their sensual residue. Further on, an out-of-use lift mesmerizes with its closed bars, inviting the viewer to trespass and explore its cobwebs and secrets, illuminated by Haines’s Nil by Mouth sound byte.

The gallery throws a corner in the viewer’s path. On the way to finding out what lies behind it, he is thrown into Robin Tarbet’s vast Data Block Print, exploring urban scenery and floppy discs – the rejects of an ever-changing technological landscape.  Beyond the corner, the viewer is astounded by Debbie Smyth’s site-specific installation It’s a Small World. Her stitching of a world map personifies our ability to be closer to each other via social media wires.

The gallery lures the viewer into a dark room, to watch White Beat, a projection by Benjamin A. Owen. It transports the viewer into a digital gallery of second-hand art objects, for which space is infinite and non-existent. A similar effect is created by Liz Harding’s Blue Sky Thinking cotton organdie and Kathryn Stevens’s oil painting Untitled (2013).  Katie O’Brien’s series of paintings lurk behind another corner, sending silent messages of the relationship between digital language code and painting. Deirdre Levy’s collage of handmade papers, dyes, pigments, thread and pencil echoes the chaotic modern mindset, in stark contrast to the tranquillity of Owen’s White Beat. Mary Flynn’s Mapping the Effects: A Place Between grounds the viewer back in concrete reality, displaying a stitching of fabrics, salvaged from the Isle of Wight shores, which spell out a cryptic message ‘Another time, Another place.’

Rob Rowles’s Kilve photograph rages a sudden battle with the space, attempting to steal the viewer out of the gallery and place him on a coastal landscape, surrounded by a terrifying but magnificent vastness. The viewer retreats into the safety of a cave-like room. Here, art and the gallery space are wed by Sara Mark’s wall painting Mundus. He is left to ponder if the bucket and brooms in the corner are silent participants of this union or a requirement, claimed by the ash and honey water medium. From this prehistoric setting, the viewer is able to examine the modern world afresh. He looks to Joanne Barlow’s ceramic structures Industrial Houses and Michele Whiting’s Pillbox projection, to make new meanings of space, place and site.

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