Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A review of the second show by Laura Mahony.

Following the success of the debut opening, The Monks Gallery launched its second exhibition featuring local and international names, presenting work in the house-come-gallery space.

The private view saw two live art performances by Dale Fearnley and Emma Stark, aswell as live music performed by Luke Crosby.

Approaching the door of the gallery was a scattering of sealed envelopes that had already encountered numerous wet footprints. I soon recognised the pile as Rebecca Glover’s ‘With Hope. ’ The envelopes consequential deterioration illuminate the potential of loosing social acknowledgment. Their placement at the foot of the door immediately causes any potential viewer to turn a blind eye to their presence, without having to go as far as looking inside their contents to disregard them once again.

After being greeted by founders of the gallery, Tom Cretney and Nick Simpson, I explored the two- floor house’s subtly curated exhibition.

The sitting area holds one of London based artist Tessa Farmer’s taxidermy sculptures. Tiny, sinister, skeleton like fairies riding wasps and attacking mice were strung in the window overlooking the street, casting a puppet show on the street below. Seeing Farmer’s work in such close proximity was a treat, the macabre nature of the work juxtaposed by the delicate and detailed model fairies. Built from organic materials they emulate an evolving living matter, taking over the world of insects and wild beats. Looking through the glass screen, I felt I was looking at an article at Pitt Rivers, a Victorian naturalists drawing room centrepiece.

Across the hall is Clare Tubby’s ‘Stretched’. The enormous knitted work covers the ceiling of the bathroom of the gallery, casting eerie lighting through its web like composition. James Hopkins ‘Time Difference’ is hung at the top of the stairs. Three clocks pointing out hours, minutes and seconds meet you sternly, ticking rhythmically. Following the placement of work in the gallery is extremely fluid, the art belongs in its space, suggesting a quirky house rather than a sterile contemporary institute.

Mid-way through the show was a performance by Emma Stark. Listening to the warbles of 1950’s hits in the kitchen, Emma began dunking clothes into huge buckets of icing and breezily hanging them on a clothes line. As each previous garment sagged from the line, splattering icing over the lino, Emma continued. Dressed in stereotypical housewife attire, she works the clothes into her recipe, squeezing and pulling at the moisture they begin to hold. After the performance, they are left to hang there, becoming rigid as the icing sets.

After leaving the warmth of the kitchen I made my way out into the garden to observe Dale Fearnley’s durational performance piece. Under the illusion that the word ‘durational’ implied cold, slow and dreary, I decided I wouldn’t stand in the rain too long to watch it. However, walking down the garden path, Fearnley, dressed as a gnome, jumped out from behind the dustbin and ran to the bottom of the garden and began fishing for rubber ducks. Walking up to him I asked how long he’d been there. He replied “ all evening.” I asked him how long he planned to stay there; “all evening,” he said. Next to him were three ceramic gnomes, all with his face, fishing in a separate pool for stickleback fish. As he began throwing stones at the house and talking to the other gnomes, I couldn’t help but laugh. In regards to his work, he explains he searches for the ‘genuine self,’ drawing parallels between societies classification of ‘normal’ juxtaposed with that of the real. The colourful and bright performance was a fantastic display of lively contemporary art.

As the night wore on, live music played and comfortable conversation flowed, promising a third exciting exhibition to follow.


 Laura Mahony

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