PREVIEW: …in Dark Times

23 February 2017 / 6-8pm

An exhibition on the thingness of things in the age of the thingless medium.

Much of our contemporary experiences are increasingly mediated by the Internet and screen-based technologies, overwhelming us with images and information whilst distancing us from the direct experience of objects and things. This exhibition attempts to consider how this far reaching context might affect our experiences of physical artworks. Some works …in Dark Times are bursting at the seams with content, overflowing with surplus information, indicative of our noisy, liquid and accelerated times. Other artists …in Dark Times indulge the potential of cheap, disposable, domestic and industrial materials to focus on a slower and contemplative experience of their inherent materiality.

With many artworks being produced that are not intended to survive beyond their first exhibition, the digital world offers them a second life in ‘perfect’ exhibition documentation, which can be shared, commented on, liked, loved, replayed, upvoted, regrammed and re-seen indefinitely – or for as long as they remain of interest – despite the things themselves being long gone

James Ackerley’s Studio Objects (2016 -) are small-scale totems of simple, logical shapes that juxtapose materials. Cardboard, timbre and MDF, are accurately cut, chopped and temporarily slotted together, like budget Brâncusi’s, where Ackerley replaces the modernist master’s carved wood, marble and cast bronze with more ‘throw away’ and everyday materials. Ackerley routinely photographs the works and posts them online before they are dismantled, reconfigured or combined into lager works. Ackerley’s work Mind that Matters (2015), is a series of crunched up balls of paper cast in prop foam which make ideal stress balls for visitors to handle, soothing the frustration of discarded and failed ideas.

The title of Scansion (A carcass) (2015) by Charlie Godet Thomas hints at a missing image that is now only traceable via the fragile edge of a photograph. The artist has twisted the photographic edge into a drawn line and embedded it into rubber. The result exists as something between an image and a sculpture. The Poem in the field (Tip-in) includes photographs encased in casts of open books that over emphasise the stillness of photography, they feature people in transit taken from Thomas’s seven year archive of photographs. Endpapers are the first and last pages in a book, sometimes marbled or simply left blank, they fill the space before the main content begins. Thomas’s Endpaper (2014 -) series feature deftly controlled swirls of pigment and painted board solidified in rubber that resemble refrozen ice cream, or the patterns found in metamorphic rock formed from exposure to high temperatures and pressures over long periods of time. Thomas is represented by VITRINE, London.

Rebecca Halliwell Sutton’s mixed and buffed concrete also resembles the qualities of more precious marble and stone which contain naturally occurring streaks, fissures and mottling. Her sagging, slumping fabric bags and taught silk, printed with pixelated skin tones, images of cysts and other internal things are both seductive and repulsive, succulent with the horrors of the body. Like the coloured marble, found in the interior of centuries old churches which resemble chopped meat and flesh Sutton’s work confronts viewers with an experience of their own human frailty and finitude against the cold hard stone.

Originally from Vancouver, now living and working in London, Zadie Xa produces intricate hand sewn fabric work as costumes, garments, wall hangings, and also works with video and performance. She explores desire, identity and personal fantasy, mixing inspiration from Korean shamanic traditions, in particular those where the shamanic role is largely performed by women, Talchum (Korean, masked drama), Asian visual tropes, American street fashion, hip hop and a kind of cosmic digital spirituality.

Bex Ilsley is interested in the performance of the self, particularly in the digital realm. She combines a variety of fabricated and appropriated objects, props and locations to construct surreal, sci-fi portraits and video works; primarily disseminated via social media and her website. Distributing images, particularly of women online, provokes questions around the ethics and intentions involved. Ilsley acknowledges this tension but ultimately enjoys the autonomy of creating her own self-image on these digital platforms, seeing the potential for them to be more or less honest, artificial or authentic; they may also travel further and live on longer than Ilsley herself. Ilsley’s amorphous, glittery, neon and candy coloured Blobs (2014-) are quintessential three dimensional things, flattened into digital images to be sold as products themselves or collaged together for t-shirt, wallpaper or phone cover prints, reaching an international community of fans, including Miley Cyrus and Wayne Coyne via Twitter and Instagram.

As a child of the 1990s Lindsey Mendick’s aesthetic sensibilities were forged in the decade that taste forgot. Her work presents a gloriously camp dreamscape of pattern and colour, with imagery pulled from culture high and low, from the baroque to The Big Breakfast. Everyday domestic objects and foodstuffs are elevated to a decadent and opulent platform. Into this Mendick weaves her own personal narratives, memories and relationships; including her mother’s (Jenny Mendick) seamstress skills, in her work Pulling at the Heart Strings (2017). Though there is a nod to the excesses of bad taste and hollow consumerism, Mendick nonetheless displays a particular sense of grace in her dance through our overflowing histories.


More on the artists:

James Ackerley (b.1990, Wrexham) lives and works in Manchester. Ackerley graduated from Manchester School of Art in 2013. Solo exhibitions include: Piecework, PERICLO, Wrexham (2016); and The Frictionless World, TOAST, Manchester (2015). Group exhibitions include: The Manchester Contemporary with NEW WORK (2016); One o’ Those, 9 Valerie Walk, Manchester (2015); The Manchester pavilion with TOAST at the Warrington Contemporary (2015); and PUTT PUTT#2, (as AV-CO OP), Turf Projects, Croyden (2014).

Bex Ilsley (b.1988, Gravesend) lives and works in Liverpool and is the currently artist-in-residence with Make Liverpool, Elevator Studios. Ilsley graduated from Manchester School of Art in 2016 and was one of the 2016 Woon Art Prize winners. Exhibitions include: The New Flesh, VIVO Media Arts Centre, Vancouver, BC, Canada (2015), Woon Foundation Painting and Sculpture Prize, BALTIC39, Newcastle (2016) and the Recent Graduates exhibition at the Affordable Art Fair, Battersea, London (2016), where Ilsley live-streamed a performance for 37.5 hours. Ilsley will present her debut solo exhibition at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery in 2017 and is exhibiting in The Endless and Mobile Beautiful Collapsible Labyrinth /at Flux Factory, New York, USA (3-20 March 2017). Ilsley’s work has reached an international audience and has been acquired into the collections of Miley Cyrus, and Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips).

Lindsey Mendick (b. 1987, London) lives and works in London. She is currently studying an MA in sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London. Recent and current exhibitions include: She’s Really Nice When You Get To Know Her, Visual Arts Center, Austin Texas (2016), My Own Private Idaho, Chalton Gallery, London, (2016), Anne et Lucie, Musee de Valence, France (2016) Résidence d’artistes de la Fondation Albert Gleizes, Moly Sabata, France (2016), EBC 005, East Bristol Contemporary, Bristol (2016), Blind Date, Royal Standard, Liverpool (2016), Performance: Disco 2000, Zabludowicz Collection, London (2015), I’m TEN, IMT gallery, London (2015), Mostyn 19, Mostyn Gallery, Wales (2015), It Was A Dark and Stormy Night, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2015).

Rebecca Halliwell Sutton (b.1991, Bolton) lives and works in Newcastle and has recently been awarded the Woon Foundation Fellowship in conjunction with BALTIC, Gateshead and Northumbria University. She graduated from Manchester School of Art, Fine Art (2016). Group exhibitions include: Fools and Follies, Tatton Park, Knutsford (2016), Woon Foundation Painting and Sculpture Prize, BALTIC39, Newcastle (2016), Heaven is a Place Where Nothing Ever Happens, Grosvenor Gallery, Manchester (2016).

Charlie Godet Thomas (b.1985, London) lives and works in London and is represented by VITRINE, London / Basel. He holds an MA Fine Art (Sculpture), from the Royal College of Art, London (2014) where he was awarded the Bermuda Arts Council Scholarship and the Peter Leitner Scholarship and a BA Fine Art, Sculpture from Manchester School of Art (2009). Solo exhibitions include: Strandline, STCFTHOTS, Leeds (2016), Preened, Blank & Amorous, Losers Gym, Nottingham (2016), Torschlusspanik, VITRINE, London (2016), To Be Is To Do, To Do Is To Be, Do Be Do Be Do, The Telfer Gallery, Glasgow (2015), In Comes the Good Air, Out Goes the Bad Air, In Comes the Good Air, Cactus, Liverpool (2015), and A Method for Writing/A Method for Making, BALTIC Center for Contemporary Art, Newcastle, UK (2014). Group exhibitions include: The Surround X SeenThrough, The Averard Hotel, London (2016), The Winds Never Stopped, Atelier ’89, Oranjestad, Aruba (2016), Re-interpreting the European Collection, The Bermuda National Gallery, Bermuda (2012). Charlie Godet Thomas he was artist in residence at Caribbean Linked IV at Ateliers ’89 in Oranjestad, Aruba (2016) and is featured in ‘Bermuda Biennial 2016’ Bermuda National Gallery. A public artwork has been commissioned by VITRINE for ‘SCULPTURE AT Bermondsey Square (unveiled October 2017) and his debut solo show in the U.S.A will be in April 2017.

Zadie Xa (b.1983. Vancouver, Canada) lives and works in London. Xa completed an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art (2014) and a BFA from Emily Carr University, Canada (2007). Recent exhibitions and performances include Basic Instructions B4 Leaving, programmed by PS/Y as part of Hysteria 2017 Cafe OTO, London; 3 Thousand and 30 High Priestess of Pluto, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2016), Linguistic Legacies and Lunar Exploration, Serpentine Gallery, London (2016), Kind of Flossy, Assembly Point Gallery, London (2016), A Rose Is Without a ‘Why’. It Blooms Because It Blooms, Carl Freedman Gallery, London (2016), Ride the Chaktu // First Contact, Serpentine Radio, London (2016), With Institutions Like These, Averard Hotel; At Home Salon: Double Acts, Marcelle Joseph Projects, London (2016).

Thanks to Creative Tourist, G.F Smith and Fred Aldous for supporting our main gallery exhibition programme 2016-17.