We present a collaboratively written blog post from four exhibiting artists at the recent !GWAK group exhibition, all of which made it to the small private view that we held just before the lockdown started.
The artists are: Shivani Khoshia, Andy Bardell, Jacob Watkinson and Djenaba Davis-Eyo
Because we couldn’t encourage visitors to the physical exhibition as planned, curator Amber Bardell has made a website where you can explore all of the works we speak about in this blog post virtually online: https://ambergwak.wixsite.com/drawandrelease
In recent years, there has been a revival and rewriting of historical art rooted in wellbeing and spirituality. A few names spring to mind - Hilma af Klint, Georgiana Houghton and more recently Agnes Pelton. These artists have helped open up the possibilities of what art can be and where it can come from. With her finger on that pulse, Amber Bardell cleverly conceived and curated this show, selecting thirteen artists who all reveal an intimate, tactile and sensual exploration of their spiritual concerns. With the current global situation, there is no better time to more carefully explore our wellbeing, and what that means to us. It is this preoccupation that is at the heart of our most recent exhibition, Draw + release.
The show's multimedia approach spans a remarkable range, including drawing, painting, photography, collage, sound, film, installation, performance, with an interactive element for visitors, thereby encouraging their own creative participation. The eclectic, immersive presentation of the art is innovative and forward thinking, posing open ended questions about the future of art exhibitions. It is value-centred with a cohesive theme - how can we better connect to ourselves and to one another?
I helped set-up the exhibition Draw + Release, in time for the private view. Amber was well organised and had sketched the layout of each of the room spaces with areas allocated for each of the artists’ works but also allowed for some flexibility of swapping spaces and arranging things in the way we felt was best at the time of the hang. Amber and I found lots of inventive ways of presenting the broad range of work which made for an especially eye-catching show.
The first room was the projection room for Art as Catharsis, Amber’s film that is great to open up a dialogue around the presented artworks. Room 2 was a similar size to the projection area, of three walls. We displayed Jacob and Charles’ works on opposite walls, engaging in a subtle dialogue and the middle wall was used to hang Elaoise’s three textile dresses, each on a coat-hanger and the arms stitched to look like they were holding hands – an effective way of linking three separate pieces to become a single, striking installation and especially poignant to the subject matter of the work. Amber had allocated the left-hand corner of the large central room for a range of pieces from different artists to be displayed together: floral handbags, ceramic tiles and jugs, and my stone carving, all on various plinths. These were effectively balanced by framed paintings on the wall behind, creating a visual dialogue with the 3D works, such as my Rooks Nest painting displayed behind my carved stone Rook.
The long back wall which faced the entrance and the walkway past the exhibition space was divided by an opening to a small storage area. Shivani’s three wall hangings to the left of the opening created a dramatic, eye-catching statement, which could be seen through the windows outside the exhibition space. Millie’s collage pieces were effectively displayed using clipboards to show the subject matter without distraction on the right hand wall. I think that our level of thought and care really transferred in to the final display.
It was a really great experience exhibiting my work for the first time. It was quite daunting having my work displayed but with Ambers help, I was much more confident in my work. I'd never had to think about the arrangements of my pieces before, it was a really cool process of attempting to work out how the audience will read my work, making sure each singular piece was cohesive to my whole space. The attention to detail and careful planning that Amber orchestrated was commendable and it absolutely paid off. A lot of care was given into how the audience interacted with the work, each piece acting within the unified whole, nothing feeling out of place. Within the exhibition was soundscapes, a therapeutic art section, live performance, sculpture, film, clothing and more! This exemplifies the skill of Amber at compiling so many different mediums under one unified banner through her given theme.
As soon as you entered the space of the exhibition, suddenly all that you knew was diminished. Anxieties, stresses, influences of society; gone. The concerns of the current pandemic wavering over our minds were relaxed. Fascinating to see the resourcefulness of our artistic community when portraying and meditating on the topic of mental health. I found peace and clarity within these works which helped me deliver my own meditative piece Temples of Healing. It was the first time performing in many years so this was an exciting and nerve racking experience.
It was such an exciting experience walking through the show, seeing the diversity of practices and subject matter. There was so much courage to be vulnerable, to experiment and take risks. It is the first group show I've been part of where my values aligned easily with all the other artists. In the far right room, there was a deliciously painted chair (Amber’s work) to contemplate the show from, with sounds melting in the air, paper fluttering in the drawing space, subconscious images imprinting themselves softly, colours vibrating, and works breaking barriers of touch. It really was an immersive experience, reflective of the diverse spiritual worlds each artist dips into to retrieve their art.
The final, interactive ‘Meditative Drawing Space’ had various media laid out for visitors to expressively doodle a response to their experience at the exhibition. A specially composed audio soundscape played gently, adding to the ambience and relaxed creative atmosphere. The works were displayed with pegs on several layered ‘washing lines’ which were subtly backlit to give an additional dimension to the artworks. It is a shame that we couldn’t get more people involved with the installation but I hope the sentiment will be carried for you to try at home (A video on the website outlines the process of making work in the space).
Djenaba's performance was captivating and really was the highlight of the exhibition; a beautiful, ethereal and sometimes haunting experience, it was a welcome addition to have a live performance as it just added a new dimension to the exhibition. My personal favourite pieces were Charles’ (who’s piece was opposite mine) and Shivani's pieces.
Surrounded by the members' work and my own (Paintings and photography of trees I’ve interacted with), I performed a four part soundscape using loop and effects pedals on my double bass and violin. The parts were about building a tree from Roots, Trunk, Branches to Leaves and it also represented the journey of healing as well as using samples of recordings of plant vibrations (as research imposes that trees and plants alike have healing benefits). I wanted to translate that into sound for an audience to draw in peace, and release their anxiety from themselves.
Please check out the exhibition online here!
The site walks through the pieces, links to Amber’s film and also displays performances (including Djenaba’s) from the Private view.
You can find each of the artists online via the links below: