Silent but Violent
Silent but Violent is schoolboy slang for farting (along with Silent but Deadly, my own personal preference). It's also the title of a new show and it makes me laugh when it comes thru on email. It's one of the reasons that I go along.
The other reason is because the email is sent from the curator of the show, Lee Edwards. I don't actually know very much about him, other than I've run into him at various pvs over the last year. He seemed to have a knack of appearing in the background to many of the photos I took.
So I figure I really have to go along - even though a glance down the list of the participating artists produces at least two names of previously unsuccessful interviewees for jobs with me at the ICA. I figure it could be a difficult night...
I get there and see Nooza and we talk a bit. We are both fans of each others writing and we generally seem to be covering the same ground, although with quite different experiences. Nooza's take on tonight is here.
I look around for Lee, who, frankly, isn't hard to spot, dressed, as he is, in full dinner jacket and black tie (above). I shake his hand. It's still early but the place is really packing out nicely. He's looking around, excitedly checking out arrivals - 'people I've invited have actually turned up', he says, both thrilled and surprised. We look across the room at Andrew Mummery scurrying along the gallery walls, sniffing at various pieces.
Lee's had this show in place since March and has been thinking and re-thinking and then re-re-thinking it through...and it looks to me like he's done ok. There are still more people arriving...
Thankfully, given such a big space - The Empire in Wadeson Street, which is a completely new one on me - he has mercifully resisted the urge to fill it with thousands of pieces and has exercised restraint by strategically placing a few works around the space.
I take a look around. I say hello to Barry Thompson, Kate Street, wave to Laura Oldfield Ford, see but fail to speak to Oliver Bancroft and tell him how much I liked his film piece at Studio 1.1, and bump into Mike Cooter and have a chat with him. Mike has been having a steady run of shows for which I pick up invites on email but never go to. Not because I don't fancy his work, just that the shows tend to be in Holland, or Germany or the US. And my budget just doesn't stretch that far. Anyway, Mike has a website which is well worth checking out here. We talk about the Cerith show at the ICA. While many are struggling to cope with the seeming emptiness of the galleries, Mike is the first to say to me that he feels that Cerith overloaded it.
He refers specifically to the magpie and a black neon that sits high up on the wall between the two upper galleries. It's actually a good point. In the piece I wrote about the show I didn't even mention the neon. I just dismissed it. Mike's right, he overloaded it. The neon and the magpie, even, seemed like afterthoughts. I wonder if they were?
Anyway, I'm doing my impression of an ice cream left out in the sun, so I figure I ought to take a look around before I end up as a slippery pool on the floor with a yellow sign placed on top of me saying 'Caution Slip Hazard'.
I drift round the works, without reference to the information sheet I've picked up, as I only usually look at all that when I get home. It seems to work for me.
I see two works which I'm pretty sure are by Neill Kidgell - I met him once and he told me about some works he was doing in red biro. And here on the wall are two delicately drawn works in red biro. That'll be his work, then. They are of leaves. One is a square made of many leaves put together and the other is the word 'Never' twice, crossing each other at right angles through the shared 'V' of the word. They are very nice indeed.
It strikes me that sometimes the quieter works in these big shows sit at an unexpected advantage. It's often the smaller, more subtle stuff that gets looked at the longest. Two artists who seem to therefore benefit tonight are Barry Thompson and Charlotte Bracegirdle. Barry is showing his familiar extraordinarily small canvases, painted with eye bleeding detail. Both of the ones here tonight hinting at strange goings on in country lanes and fields. A huddled figure in one is hunched in a field against a breaking dawn, while in the other the legs of a young person rise upwards into a alien light. Barry's work often revolves around themes of youth, music, the countryside and some sense of the spiritual or psychological made fact. They are striking pieces.
The other standout tonight is Charlotte Bracegirdle (not least for that fantastic name) with some framed old fashioned illustrations from children's stories which she amends, distorts and refashions to put a slightly (more) disturbing slant on the original intention of the image. I read later that sometimes she doesn't do anything at all but just exhibits the original found image as is. I like that even more.
There are other works there too: big colourful things, big wooden things, sculptures which sit grumpily on the floor (surely they would have benefited from some sort of plinth?), drawings in nice frames, a pricelist that seems a little hopeful...well, it looks like an art show and that's no bad thing.
As I leave, nearly tripping over a huge fried egg person on the stairs (or the victim of a giant fried egg falling from the sky) I think about the show's title. A great title, but not really what the show was about.
It should have been called: 'It's always the quiet ones...'
Because it always is.