Army tech, rocket tests and the UK's biggest steamship put Hampshire back on art map

By Mark Sheerin | 17 September 2013

Exhibition preview: artSouth, various venues, Hampshire, until December 1 2013

Outdoor dance performance seen through nIght vision goggles
Graham Gussin stages contemporary dance, as seen through army night vision goggles© Image courtesy Graham Gussin
ArtSway is dead. Long live artSouth. Hampshire is compensating for the loss of their New Forest art gallery with an ambitious region-wide programme of public commissions. And as if to prove that art has minimal dependence on galleries, six out of the ten projects can be found in unusual places.

Multiple exhibits in Portsmouth and Southampton also suggest the ports are bouncing back from a failed bid to be joint UK City of Culture 2017. And with additional work as far afield as Winchester, Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight, Hampshire might just be deemed County of Culture 2013.

It has certainly inspired the ten artists in the current festival. Tom Hall has discovered a rocket testing facility on the Isle of Wight, while Mel Brimfield has developed a music hall performance for the SS Shieldhall, once Britain’s largest steamship.

Several artists have found local academics with interesting niches. Clare Barclay is teaming up with a professor of Punch and Judy shows. Meanwhile, Jordan Baseman explores the experience of crime with help from a lecturer from the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies.

Crazy as it may sound, artist Graham Gussin is collaborating with both the army and a contemporary dance troupe. And Susanne M Winterling has enlisted an architect to design a shelter for the local Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Keyhaven Nature Reserve.

But perhaps the most interesting collaboration to be found is that between artist Jeremy Millar and the head of the bindery at Quarr Abbey, on the Isle of Wight. Father Nicholas Spencer will bind a first edition copy of Huysmans’ 1903 novel, L’Oblat, a book with strong connections to his order.

With such a rich and varied spread of works, those without a car will be at a slight disadvantage. But if you like the sound of artSouth, it may be worth exploring a forthcoming coach tour, advertised on their website here.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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Visit Mark Sheerin’s contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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