So I was pretty excited when New Art Gallery Walsall got back to me about doing a voluntary placement, so that I could get a feel of what it’s like working within a gallery. I have fond memories of coming to this gallery when I was a lot younger – I love how it is so welcoming and non-elitist. I think more galleries should try and get kids through the door and excited about art. It’s also a really nice building to work in – I vaguely remember my brother, who’s an Architect, coming and having a tour around to see the interesting building and learn more about it. I’m only on my 2nd day here at the gallery, and I’m enjoying it so far. The team have been really welcoming and given me some interesting things to do. I had already seen all of the current exhibitions in the gallery, bar one, about a month ago, but the staff encouraged me to go and have another look around which was nice.
At the moment in the gallery my favourite exhibition is ‘There is a Place…’ on floor 3. The exhibition brings together artists that are interested in psychic connectivity to landscape; depicting generic and urban spaces that evoke personal and collective memories. I am currently halfway through a degree in Fine Art and my studio practice also deals with the idea of ‘collective memory’, so I was really pleased when I saw that the gallery was running an exhibition on just that. Before this I had struggled to find a range of artists that were dealing with the same concepts as me, so it really helped my uni work out. The thing I like about the idea of shared memory is that it tries to relate to everyone; the aim being that everyone who sees the work has a personal reaction and it triggers their own memories – they can interact with it. I particularly like the work of Laura Oldfield Ford and George Shaw which is in the exhibition. The urban spaces they depict feel all too familiar, as if you’ve been there before.
Zarina Bhimji’s latest film ‘Yellow Patch’ has it’s world premiere here at New Art Gallery Walsall! It’s also being shown simultaneously at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. I managed to get down into the gallery space to watch it earlier. The sound in the piece is particularly striking. Reading more about it I realise that the film’s starting point was to do with the trade and migration routes across the Indian Ocean. The final product becomes very detached from this, it is more to do with poetic imagery than any historical facts. The film shows great craftmanship and has a sensitive handling to light and sound. To me the film was about abandonment and neglect. There were no living things in sight (with the exception of a spider and a couple of stray dogs). The film focused on empty and abandoned interiors, and lonely-looking landscapes. I recommend anyone to come and watch the film; I felt it was a bit of escapism from city life.
Epstein’s Rima: ‘A Travesty of Nature’ is also being shown at the gallery, which include Jacob Epstein’s initial drawings for the sculpture he made that was erected in Hyde Park. Rima is the half-wild ‘mysterious woodland girl’ that was a character in one of the books by popular writer William Henry Hudson, and the sculpture of Rima was commissioned for a memorial after Hudson’s death. When the piece was unveiled there was public outrage; Rima was supposed to be the physical and spiritual embodiment of beauty, but instead the sculpture showed a crudely carved figure of a distorted nude girl. The amount of controversy it caused is surprising. Looking at the drawings in the gallery it’s hard to see what all the fuss was about. Maybe it’s because nowadays we see heaps of increasingly controversial art, so this is nothing in comparison. The sculpture was revealed in 1925 which is why I find it so hard to see why it caused so much controversy. Duchamp had already created his ‘Fountain’ piece by this point, where he just presented a urinal turned on it’s side. You’d think that’d create more outrage than a crudely carved sculpture! See for yourself whether you agree that Jacob Epstein ’sold his soul to the devil’ – Morning Post 28/11/1925, when he created this sculpture.
Currently showing on the top floor is ‘Blue skies, nothing but blue skies…’, which shows several pieces of work that are concerned with the power of the sky. It’s appropriately put on the top floor, where light beams in from the large windows and you feel like you’re high in the sky. Looking out the windows at the great view and the sky all around makes the gallery windows themselves fit in with the artworks.
So, there’s a brief summary of all the temporary exhibitions that are currently on show at the gallery. What I really like about The New Art Gallery Walsall is that there is something for everyone. I really believe that anyone can come here and find something that they like.
Kiri Smart, Work Experience Student