John Gingell Award
G39, Oxford Street, Cardiff, CF24 3DT
17 August-28 September
Review by Rory Duckhouse
The John Gingell Award was established in honour of an artist who impacted the Cardiff art scene for over four decades both as a pioneering artist and passionate educator. The award honours his legacy by supporting the career development of two selected artists, Toby Huddlestone and Alan Goulbourne. The exhibition is the culmination of a prolonged period of critical and curatorial support intended to develop their practices. Both artists have distinct and separate approaches, which merge coherently into the warehouse setting of the gallery space.
Toby Huddlestone’s work is interdisciplinary and takes on numerous forms. Created through dialogue, conversation, and collaboration, he questions, deconstructs, and strips back processes to instigate new lines of enquiry. Through a series of actions initiated by the artist, the traditional exhibition timeline will be re-ordered.
A raised walkway is installed around the exhibition space that acts as a stage, a vantage point and a place from which to construct. The scaffolding is a platform both literally and conceptually, a starting point from which the exhibition will evolve as an open ended process.
Huddlestone has assembled an editorial board that will produce a retrospective book of his practice throughout the exhibition, from early college drawings to recent collaborative works. As the content of the book takes shape, each page is presented and informs the work that is curated within the exhibition.
At the beginning of the process, Huddlestone stages a performance called ‘11 minutes’. The fast paced lecture narrates his ideas, influences and personal recollections. He is timed to present a year per minute, with a visual catalogue accompanying the performance. This narrated overview of his practice is delivered to the editorial board and provides the framework of the book. The resulting process unfolds over the period of the exhibition. By instigating this dialogue, the artist has given up editorial control to the board that meets in a dedicated space, unit #3. The focus is on production through collaboration, the editorial pod is visible and the process of constructing content is exposed to the visiting public, with the pages displayed as they appear. Periodically, Huddlestone returns to the gallery space, responding to the pages and re-imagining some of the works.
Alan Goulbourne’s bold and imposing sculptural works dominate the gallery space. ‘Tree study’ is constructed out of building materials - planed, sawed blocks of wood that are positioned to mimic their source. The sculpture feels more like a theatre prop than an observation of nature. The natural form has been ordered, treated, kiln-dried and re-presented in an environment constructed by cultural forces.
‘Totems 1 & 2’ are trials that sit between the two larger structures ‘Tree Study’ and ‘Sorry Paul’, creating a link between the different working methods. The smaller studies act as a counterbalance to the ambition and scale of the larger artworks.
The structures look simple but this belies their formal and conceptual complexity. The juxtaposition of the seemingly natural wooden sculptures and the harsh surface of the black shiny blocks reflects an interest in the relationship between science and nature. Through this relationship, the two sculptures work in dialogue; the cold smooth black surface plays off the warm tones in the wood, highlighting the different forms and visual language of the interconnected worlds.
The monolithic presence of ‘Sorry Paul’ is built at a scale that has a physical effect upon the viewer. The structure feels both accessible and inaccessible, the shape draws one’s attention but the physical blocks optically recede and advance. The visible interior invites attention but we are unable to access the inner recesses of the space. As we get closer to the structure, we are faced only with our limitations in exploring this different place.
The exhibition presents two artists with differing approaches that merge coherently within the space. The scale and ambition of the two artists are reflected in the works on display, presenting a testament to the importance of giving time, support and freedom to artists to develop their practice.