Colliding Spaces — Art Show at St.Martin’s

Reviewed by kev McVeigh

Colliding Spaces is the name of this years Art degree show at The University OF Cumbria St Martin’s.  As lecturer Kit Abramson says in the exhibition catalogue many artists are fascinated by space and some of the work on show clearly reflects that.  However I am unsure that the title really matches the contents here.


The first piece you see is the biggest and boldest, Queenie Henn’s Deliverance.  At first it looks like an urbanisation of Tibetan Prayer Flags, old clothes and cloths stied together, but as you enter the Alexandra Gallery and see the interior portion it changes,  Latticed sections meet in a tight ball inside, but outside they fall free, wind-blown, rain strained.  Henn talks of tensions, of textures representing emotions, but I am struck by an incongruity.  Normally we think of unravelling, of frayed edges as a sign of collapse, as a bad thing, but this provocative piece offers the thought that release from tension might be beautiful.


The exhibition is spread over three spaces, the two floors of the Gallery and the Studio.  Each artist’s work is prominently displayed but some seem to suffer in context: Ann Davenport’s floor level constructions of burnt objects, naked piles of coal and debris are hard to view firstly in the crowds, and then later they are still overpowered by objects around them.  The glance is drawn most strongly to Simon Jobson’s vivid images of eyes in bloodied close-up.  I think Jobson is the only male artist in the show and this piece is clearly masculine in its visceral intensity.


On the other wall Katrina Dainton’s This Is The Tale Of The Fig is four large images of a fig opening, each a step further back, until the last is an Emerson-esque landscape of figs.  This was perhaps the most problematic piece for me, no one image really affected me, and though the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts, it wasn’t quite enough. 


Not everyone likes everything of course, and one observer was heard to say ‘it’s not what I think of when I think of art’ about Robyn Lockhart’s Fe2O3 which I felt one of the best things in the show.  Iron troughs, carefully angled, filled with a water and vinegar solution, the levels gradually altered, created beautiful layers of orange rust on gray metal.  I was reminded, in a good way, of the larger work of Richard Serra and the collision here, of the organic and the industrial.


Across in the studio three large constructions dominated, each a form of room itself.  Susan Taylor’s linked quilting rings seemed like a dreamcatcher for the most convoluted of dreams, but were displayed in an intriguing white cube with viewing holes.  Samantha Bell went organic with trained ivy producing a simple shed-like structure.  Lisa Letch’s Suite Home offered a very different take on the living space, where Taylor and Bell were open, Letch’s claustrophobic, constructed room offered the same tension as Henn’s sculpture.


Many people were taken with the entirely natural seeming salt crystal growths of Nikki Dolphin, though again these ‘random’ shapes had been trained raising questions of purpose and of how this might be colliding space. 

 Over all a fascinating show, no two pieces really alike and all of the quality you would expect.  If the Colliding Spaces title is not entirely representative of all on display that is perhaps a sign of the diversity here.

Colliding Spaces is open until 25 June.


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