Supporting emerging artists

Katie Hare – still from The Edge of the Frame (2016) courtesy of the artist

Constructs at LUX, Waterlow Park until 2 October

Moving image works by emerging artists are often the most original and exciting to experience.  The pressures of external expectations do not seem to weigh them down and so their work is fresh and untrammelled. The inaugural exhibition at the new LUX gallery in the grounds of the idyllic Waterlow Park in Highgate this weekend is a great way to feel better about the current state of MI art as three recent graduates, Katie Hare, Ellie Power and Callum Hill  showcase their work. What these young artists need is an organisation that takes their work seriously. But more of that later.

Katie Hare was for me one of the strongest artists at the Goldsmiths MFA show. My previous blogpost recognises her seminal work, Wrong then, wrong today  conflating the visual and political in her succinct analysis of the culturally insensitive, analogue world of the 1950s cartoon. Another work I had not previously seen, The Edge of the Frame, (illustrated above) also uses slowed down, found cartoon footage from the same era to make a point about the psychological experience of the unreal. It uses a surreal version of the animation trope where a character running too fast to stop at a cliff edge, flails in mid air before plummeting downwards. The profound psychological symbolism of this image is part of its appeal. It may be seen as a metaphor for our desperate attempts to regain footing when the self is exposed to an existential threat with the imminent possibility of a descent into mental oblivion. Katie has selected a prescient post modern version of this trope where the two fleeing creatures skid around a bend and career into the white void that lies beyond the reel. They then desperately try to fight their way back into the scene. It has an eerie electronic soundtrack that mirrors this sense of dislocation. This slide into an unreal world and the lack of traction experienced in delusional mental conditions seems to be perfectly mirrored in this work. It was great to meet Katie at the show and confirmed the fierce intelligence that informs her work.

Ellie Power’s two digital animation works give a powerful sense of our fears of getting lost in the all pervasive digital landscape we are exposed to. In Mesh a human arm tries to force its way into the visual foreground which consists of the shifting planes of macro pixels. In the cleverly titled, Untitled (If an NPC speaks in an empty server do they make a sound?),  a simple scene of waves lapping against a beach with a changing cloudscape in the background is given an unsettling edge by an industrial electronic soundtrack and subtitled messages such as Dead pixels are blind spots.  

Callum Hill’s film Solo Damus shot in Mexico includes sumptuous night footage of a tropical lagoon, an atmospheric subway station and some gritty street scenes. Sadly I only caught a proportion of it (with no  duration time given impossible to tell how much)   because the projector stalled and no-one seemed to be in a hurry to fix it.

Now onto the issue of LUX’s apparent relaxed/disrespectful attitude to the artist’s work. The lack  of either wall labels or a gallery plan identifying the artworks seemed a very strange omission. OK, there were only five works but even so it saves you having to work it out by inference from the descriptions in the exhibition notes. For an organisation that should understand about displaying MI works it was even more puzzling that the duration of each film was not available. There was similarly relaxed approach to the preview start time of 4.00 pm which was unusually early, due presumably to the constraints of the Park closure. Arriving at the advertised start time, a peek into the gallery where the  floor was strewn with leads and power tools revealed that the installation was still underway. I have not joined the twitterati so the tweet that LUX posted earlier in the day changing the start time to 5.00 pm had passed me by.  Thinking about this, is it a “thing ” to follow Twitter updates from the gallery you are intending to visit?  Have I missed something here? Or perhaps this is just a way of offloading the embarrassment. After 90 minutes of hanging around  it was a bit galling to be told: “We are running a little late and will be open shortly”.  At 5.40 the throng of expectant MI enthusiasts  were allowed in. This felt like deja vu as only last month I had turned up at another small London gallery to find it unstaffed and locked during its advertised opening times. The contrasting obsessional and laid back personalities that seem to dominate the art world is something I have mused about and will feature in a future blogpost.

So a catalogue of problems. What bugs me about these mishaps and errors is that the young artists and their prospective audience are being treated in such an unprofessional way. There is so much competition that they are deemed to be incredibly lucky to get a public show regardless of the niceties. However  I do not doubt that if it had been an opening for an established artist this disruption would not have occurred. LUX is a crucial part of the MI artworld. They just need to get their act together.


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