Grace Ndiritu ‘The Nightingale’, 2004Video Installation. © Richard Moss/24 HOur Museum.
Perspective 2004, the annual open submission show at the Ormeau Baths Gallery in Belfast serves an eclectic and entertaining overview of contemporary art.
Running until November 27 2004 this year’s selection of 20 works was chosen by Italian curator Vittorio Urbani, Director of the Nuova Icona Gallery in Venice from more than 300 entries.
It draws artists from as far away as New York and Montreal and as close to home as Belfast and Dublin and manages to encompasses photography, painting, video, installation, sculpture and performance art. It makes for an interesting and engaging show.
“The rule I may suggest to understand the choice and the show, is an interest in the movement, in the attitude of things to go forward, to switch their given position for a more favourable one,” explains Urbani. “The works selected have all of them more or less quiet or vivacious aspects of joy.”
Paula Lynch, Dance, 2004. © Richard Moss/24 Hour Museum.
There is a paucity of painting and an abundance of video installation in Urbani’s selection - with no less than eight of the chosen pieces falling into the ‘digital art’ category. Perhaps unsurprising then that the lucky recipient of the £6000 ‘first prize’ went to Grace Ndiritu for her affecting blend of performance and video, The Nightingale, 2004.
It’s a stirring piece that deals with racial stereotyping. Ndiritu faces down the camera and transforms herself, sometimes comically, with a simple piece of cloth while an Afro-beat chugs away in the background. It’s a film that manages to be joyful and unsettling and manages to somehow fall into the avowed criteria of curator Urbani - who was looking for works ‘affected by joy’.
There is also humour – if not exactly joy – in Paul Howard’s Restoration 2004, which reworks Holbein’s ‘Ambassadors’ by resetting the famous symbol-laden painting as a real time film composition. The camera moves through the updated modernised minutiae of Holbein’s original – the ambassador’s tights and ermine replaced by t-shirts and denim.
In an adjoining room Paula J. Lynch’s short film of a middle-aged couple explores the mundane nature of lifelong partnerships. To the strains of a musical box rendition of ‘I could have danced all night’ the resigned couple offer a dreary but humorous depiction of living and loving
Caitlin Heffernan's installation of furniture objects. © Richard Moss/24 Hour Museum.
A different mood is created at the back of the gallery where, tucked away in its own room, Caitlin Heffernan’s installation of re-worked furniture pieces resides quietly.
Exploring the schism between memory and reality (her strange photographs of a reconstructed caravan remembered from childhood can be seen just around the corner) there is a fragility and beauty to this work that is quietly affecting.
Dougal McKenzie. The limits of Permissiveness, 2004 (Pages from Herbert Reads Contemporary British Art 1 to 20), Watercolour on paper. © Richard Moss/24 Hour Museum.
In the upper galleries the paintings of Dougal Mckenzie, a Dublin-based Scottish artist, displays something more akin to joy - or is it love? In this case for an old paperback book by Herbert Read.
Read’s Modern British Art is reproduced in a series of small watercolours featuring selected pages (complete with word for word text and pencil scribbles). The result is storyboard homage – or is it a paean to the private pleasure of second-hand book collecting? Either way it’s a fascinating piece.
Andrea Stanislav, ‘The Forest of Bunktum Booger’, 2004. Pine cones, fur, mirror glass © Richard Moss/24 Hour Museum.
The spacious upper galleries of the impressive Ormeau Baths building yield further pleasant surprises. Jessica Jones’ scratch painting, literally scored into the gallery wall, is impressive - not least for the way it illustrates the artistic process. A crescent of plaster and paint is left on the floor as evidence of her labour.
In the same room Karen Tam’s deconstruction of western perceptions of the Chinese is examined through a series of beautiful and intricate paper cutouts that draw on the décor and styles of Chinese restaurants. In the corner Andrea Stanislav’s floor installation meanwhile spreads out to form a forest of pinecones comically interrupted by fluffy pink puppets.
Jesse Jones, ‘Trade is the golden girdle on the globe.’ 2004 Carved Drawing. Richard Moss/24 Hour Museum.
Apart from the quality of some of the work in Perspective 2004, what comes across most strongly is the way it has been carefully curated. Each piece of work has been given the space to breath.
The setting certainly helps with its abundance of natural light and mix of spaciousness and intimacy, but this exhibition gives the art the space and the platform it deserves and for that both the gallery and curator should be applauded.