JVA at Jerwood Space, 171 Union Street, Bankside, London, SE1 0LN

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Jerwood Encounters: After Hours
JVA at Jerwood Space, London
15 May - 23 June 2013
Review by Ariane Belisle

Presenting visitors with a portal into the creative minds of graphic designers, Jerwood Encounters: After Hours’ An exhibition of personal work by graphic designers exhibits work created free from the constraints of a client, brief or fee. Concepts and projects traversing myriad media and themes unite under this overarching premise, whilst personal artistic impulses and passions are explored, and that flash of brilliance that is inspiration, exposed.

Reminiscent of the haphazard nature of a fifteenth century cabinet of curiosities, vibrant typographic maps, bold mantras, anti-typeface graffiti, coal hole covers, sculptural letterforms, papier maché figures, remote-controlled cars, comic strips, video installations, Pentone mood charts, flotsam, jetsam, cartoon clocks and a proverb playing moneybox engage in an unexpected visual dialogue. Privileging inclusiveness over exclusivity, the boundlessness intrinsic to the creative process is echoed in the show’s ethos, engendering a mise en abyme of sorts, as the concept behind the individual artworks reduplicate and refer to the exhibition as a whole. Boldly turning its back on the tidal wave of thematic and aesthetic curatorial premises, After Hours is rather a celebration of illimitable inspiration and freedom of creative expression.

Flanked between two doors, Anthony Burrill’s I Like It. What Is It’ towers over viewers as they enter Jerwood Space. Vague and all encompassing, the bright yellow typographic work’s ringing optimism resounds through the exhibition space, paving a figurative yellow brick road for visitors to navigate the show with relative abandonment. Juxtaposed against Alan Kitching’s personal exploration of the interconnection between place and history through reinvented maps, and Steve Royle’s anti-graffiti investigating the erasure of language as a form of public expression, the artworks in the first room subtly reinvent existing visual cues, while presenting visitors with an alternate view of the world.

Emerging into chaos, the second room is frenzied and graphic, as it exhibits an overwhelmingly large display of objects that oscillate between art and design. Effortlessly merging the two disciplines, 26 sculptural letterforms by Michael Johnson boldly adorn one of the walls. Exploring three-dimensional prototyping and typography, the letters are created from superimposing dozens of logos that use various ubiquitous fonts. Transcending their primordial function as language apparatus, these surreal constructs successfully morph into art objects. Lost amid the many posters and illustrations that compete for the viewer’s gaze, Julie Mangeard’s 360-degree book ironically comments on our short attention span and the hyper-textual nature of information today. Finally, negotiating their way around Joe Phillips’s Remote Drawing, which sits in the middle of the room, visitors are invited to contribute to the creative process. Toy cars equipped with colored felt-tip pens and controlled by wiling participants, leave behind them a trail of multihued skid marks.

Through its use of dimmed lighting and dark walls, the final room facilitates quiet contemplation. In many ways the calm after the storm, the space evokes the museological sphere. Gently voicing the cynicism the exhibition stands against, Jamie Ellul’s Time is Money features a clock where coins are used in place of numbers, generating a permanent reminder that every second costs or pays. Exploring another facet of the notion of time, Phil Carter’s Found Folk bookends the show. Composed of figures sculpted from beach-combed flotsam and jetsam, each object is intrinsically linked to its personal history, a product of abrasion and time.

There is no doubt that the curatorial aim has been achieved, as the natural pulse of creative expression is successfully communicated to viewers through the rhythmic and haphazard structure of the show. While the plurality of voices inevitably lends a schizophrenic element to the space, it is through this lack of direction that the inexhaustibleness of compulsive artistic practice successfully manifests itself within the rigid confines of the white cube. Offering a glimpse into the imagination of its contributors, After Hours should be viewed as a celebration of infinite creative possibility.

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