Tuesday, August 08, 2006

British Art Show 6

Last weekend in Bristol my partner and I had a look through some of the venues participating in British Art Show 6. This exhibition, occurring only every five years, has previously visited three other cities. This is the last stop, so if you want to see what's up with contemporary British art, you have until September 17 to get to Bristol.

A few works stood out in particular. Richard Hughes has sculpted a life-sized Match, which hardly seems a worthy contribution to contemporary artistic practise... until you actually see it. This tiny simulacra of a dying moment said more to me than long documentary-style videos, collections of shoes, towers of blocks, galleries of sand, or most of the rest of the show.

Two Hew Locke pieces from the House of Windsors series are popular favourites. A profile of the Queen has been rendered in plastic lizards, guns, insects and other replica detritus, setting up a dramatic dialogue between part and whole, reproduction and mere recreation. The replica brooch available in the gallery store misses the point by reducing the piece to a detail-free plane.

We had previously stumbled upon the Phil Collins' DVD el mundo no escuchar√° in a gallery in London. In it, residents of Bogota perform karaoke versions of songs from The Smiths' The World Won't Listen album. While this is undoubtedly a statement about globalisation, it also exists on a level of pure exuberance. Similarly, the Palestinian dancers in They Shoot Horses are exhausting themselves in a marathon event, a useful political metaphor, but are also simply having a good time. Laughing out loud is not something you may be used to doing at a contemporary art show, but Phil Collins may change all of that.

Finally, Tonico Lemos Auad presented a carpet with bits of fluff scraped off and sculpted (with some skill) into various animal parts. A fox with missing head melted into the fuzzy surface while elsewhere rows of ears emerged. Large expanses contained abstract trails, remnants of insect passages or other messengers of decay.

A few words about the venues. The Arnolfini is a well-situated building with an excellent bookstore and an equally impressive resource centre.

Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, located on the Clifton triangle, has some excellent dinosaurs and other museum displays, as well as some not-so-contemporary art.

Nearby is the Royal West of England Academy. If you visit, don't forget to check out the New Gallery for a show by Nicky Knowles. We enjoyed her lovely black and white images, nearly abstract renderings of the Cambridge Fens. Her works in colour we did not find nearly so effective. For some odd reason the website is out of date on that show, but you can view images from the Cube Gallery and 9 The Gallery.

The images above are abstracts from photos taken in Bristol, and not associated with this art show in any way. Pity!


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