Monday, 6 October 2014

Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2014

Alli Sharma attends this year's Bloomberg New Contemporaries Exhibition at the The World Museum, Liverpool and provides an insight into four of this year's 55 chosen artists. Expect video journals, social media references and (of course) Marxism.

The selection of 55 artists by Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Enrico David and Goshka Macuga reflects diverse media, processes, themes and approaches. Abundant video works are neatly presented on identical screens, creating repetition throughout the exhibition whilst allowing each its own space. Printmaking, painting and sculpture are also in evidence in an insightful and polished exhibition.

A sense of self-discovery and unpicking of history permeates some of the works by younger artists, and exploring how individuals fit into the global picture could be seen as a natural thing to do in our increasingly fast paced, changing and uncertain world.

On the face of it Xin Shen documents her artist father in his search for authentic images of Tibetan people to use in his own practice. We find that his ‘romantic’ realist paintings feed into the Chinese market and this seemingly simple video journal unfolds to reveal deeper complexities between cultures, art making and global economics. Examining the elaborate systems in which she finds herself operating as an artist, Shen also follows in her father’s footsteps with a parallel practice that supports her studies in the Western world. Globalisation, domestic Chinese politics, economics and art making are all bound together within the story of a touching father/daughter relationship.

Xin Shen, Counting Blessings, 2014, still from video.

Of the three modest paintings by Ed Hill (b.1989), Bee Night is the most mysterious. One can only guess whether there is personal significance, connection or history with the image, but this slightly clumsy figure has certainly been rendered with much care. An illuminated, dry, chalky figure stands alone in the night ground radiating an ethereal glow. With no bees in sight, it’s a strange and wistful scene and one is left wondering exactly what the beekeeper is up to. The ghostly atmosphere isn’t sinister. The artist has deliberately blended the edges of things, softening the scene with a sense of touch and intimacy in the smudgy handling of materials.

Ed Hill, Bee Night, 2013, oil on linen.

Despite the soft textiles and accomplished embroidery, there is a menacing overtone to Henry Hussey’s  outsiderish-looking banner, The Guardian. A Roman imperial eagle symbolises authority in the background. It is the sort of insignia found in standards and flags used by legions going into battle. Underneath, the word ‘Coliseum’ suggests gladiatorial shows and demonstrations of power and violence. Amongst collaged ancient statues, a black and white photograph of two men sets up a story in the last century. A large male profile forms the cloak of a figure whose hands and head are dislocated. The disconnected hands emphatically gesticulate, maybe in sign language. A recent newspaper article refers to Britain’s colonial past, one of several conflicts in the piece, but it is hard to join things up. Less narrative than a Grayson Perry tapestry, this fabric piece is fragmented and uncertain. A bold, hand-painted text directs us to the fact that the artist’s ‘pitbull’ grandmother still chants Marxist slogans. The uneasy mix of political signs suggests that Hussey could be piecing together fragments of his individual history, together with a wider context.

Henry Hussey, The Guardian, 2013. 

Looking at relationships with lightness and humour, Be young, be wild, be desperate by Marie Jacotey-Voyatzis is disarmingly candid. Her quick, imaginative, drawings in coloured pencil are observed from social media – Facebook and Tumblr. Posting selfies to the world is a recent phenomenon and it is fascinating to see traditional boundaries of privacy so readily broken. Comic book style situations are presented together to create a mix of funny, sad and poignant moments, often with added text to form a viewpoint. The fragments add up to sexy girls’ tales, horseplay, alluring or awkward situations, bad sex, hot girls, longing and disappointments, with very particular fashion details and deliberate, sometimes cynical, attention to an imaginary girls’ world.

Marie Jacotey-Voyatzis, Be young, be wild, be desperate, 2013.

The World Museum, Liverpool with its child-friendly (read: theme-parkish) interactive exhibits doesn’t lend itself easily to a contemporary art exhibition. However, with reflection, it seems an apt setting for artworks concerned with current socio-political and economic concerns, alongside investigations into human histories and self-identity. The exhibition is thoughtfully presented under the new directorship of Kirsty Ogg. It will be interesting to see if she can pull if off again at the ICA, London in November.

Alli Sharma

Bloomberg New Contemporaries is open in Liverpool until 26 October before touring to ICA, London from 26 November – 25 January 2015.

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