Squaring The Circles – Exhibition Review
A Review by the Lancashire Times
Recognise this: you arrive at an art gallery to find crowds of people standing around the picture you really want to see? I’d be surprised if your answered ‘no’.
Japanese artist and photographer Takashi Arai has solved this problem. His daguerreotypes are hung in a darkened room with each image lit by a single light bulb. It is one way (and an ingenious one) of individualising each piece. The lightbulbs are not sequenced to come on in linear manner so viewers have to move across the room as the bulbs highlight the next image.
The subjects are teenagers who are responding to questions about nuclear power – a very live topic in Japan since there have been two accidents at nuclear power plants.. Their responses are relayed in Japanese and English. And as the viewer stands in front of each piece, his or her face is reflected in glass. The intention here is to draw the viewer into a closer relationship with the subject. It is a theatrical experience.
Arai’s ingenuity is not unique in this fascinating exhibition. Most of the ground floor rooms are devoted to Squaring the Circles of Confusion – Arai’s work has a room to itself – while another shares wall-space with the Gallery’s collection of Grimshaws. More of this later.
Previously, the exhibition has been on tour and arrives in Scarborough replete with curator Zelda Cheatle and several of the exhibiting artists. There are some very serious themes explored including industrial decline, the challenges of ageing and the environment. Some of the artistic issues encompass Pictorialism and the Sublime, in one case even specifically referencing Caspar David Friedrich.
The link to the Lancashire Times piece Lancashire Times
Perhaps the most dominant image of the whole exhibition is Ian Phillips McLaren’s ‘Gwen’., his Mother in Law. It is the largest single piece in the exhibition.
Through what looks like the panes of a window, we view the face of an elderly lady. For McLaren, it was a labour of love, taking over seven months to complete and involving many photographic techniques and overlays.
A face behind a window: is it suggesting the isolation felt by Alzheimers sufferers? Or, as I first thought, a face asking you to join her inside? Whatever was in the artist’s mind, it is an imposing work.
If the keynote for ‘Gwen’ is dignity, then David George’s is charm.
It may not sound promising, but his photographs, depicting the industrial decline of Teesside, reveal an unexpected beauty in a decaying heritage. In addition, the decision to put George’s images in a gallery with Scarborough Art Gallery’s collection of Atkinson Grimshaw’s was an inspired one. Grimshaw’s ability to extract the sublime from unlikely subject matter complements George’s vision of the decline of an industrial powerhouse. Further, and I must admit this had to be pointed out to me, one shot of a tranquil river scene has a Barratt house sitting on top of a river bank.
Images from all of the artists in the show below