GROUP TRIP: Southampton galleries

In my opinion, physically seeing or experiencing artworks provides far greater scope for ideas than merely seeing a picture. For this reason I was really glad to have been offered the opportunity of a group trip to some art galleries and the graduate showcase for Solent university. As well as familiarising myself with the standards of work expected from an degree level art student, I was also able to gather some inspiration for this project. Although most of my records are in photography form, I felt it was important to additionally sketch some of the works (digitally and physically) in order to get the best understanding once back at college. This was also beneficial because while drawing you really have to pay attention to detail and therefore meant I was analysing the piece without even thinking about it.

The first gallery was the Southampton City Art Gallery. Despite living within close proximity, I had no idea this treasure trove of modern and classical artworks existed. An abyss of pieces throughout time, in differentiating media, the displays were hand picked by a variety of interesting individuals – including members of Southampton football club.

One of the most memorable pieces was an animated display of missile launches by Kelly Richardson. Very much down to interpretation, I felt the work had deeper undertones and was suggestive of the effortless access we now have to colossal destruction. Touching upon the idea of nuclear warfare is controversial and with so many afraid to even speak of the word, I think it was a bold move to highlight how quickly devices can be launched to initiate armageddon. The animation itself was mesmerising to watch, with the contrast of a dark nighttime against the bright white light from unknown beyond the mountains. The uneven, dystopian terrain provides an unstable surface for fiery streams of missiles crawling upwards, perhaps suggesting the instability of political groups who are meant to be responsible for our safety. Alternatively one could perceive this visual creative as further more sinister in that the missiles are the only thing providing light and hope to the world and the upward motion referring to how we as people look up to violence and weaponry when things don’t go as we’d like them. In the modern day people turn to destructive methods which is actually ironic as the primal instincts of mankind would been to either run or fight. This would therefore reveal that as a society we are no more refined than a in their un-evolved state and in reality are about as civilised as an ape with an iPad. I think what I find the most interesting about this display was the whole intention of comfort. Central to the space was a chair for the audience to reach optimum relaxation while the soundscape of crackling and roaring flames echoes round the room and into the next. If you take the sinister concept, seemingly dystopian landscape and imagery of destructive products and juxtapose this with the actual viewing experience, the overall effect is quite thought provoking. Perhaps Richardson was trying to get people to realise how comfortable we actually are in the face of such atrocities.

Second to this I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit by Christopher Le Brun. The president of Royal Academy of Arts put together a colourful display in a largely neutral room. Effect of colour against muted tones was dramatic and was clearly well thought out in curation, although if I were to curate this exhibition myself I’d have tried to ensure all walls, furniture and flooring were the same colour – and in keeping with the modern tone. The bench in the middle was almost off putting it was quite a bright wooden shade and therefore diverted my attention from the displays. As artworks in themselves, the oil paintings were rich in aesthetic and tone. Although they were all painted in the same style/stroke, each differentiated due to the strength of colour and while contrasted individually, all seemed harmonious in the larger scale outcome. I’m inspired by the empowerment of the collection and will use this concept to drive my own outcomes.

The next gallery we visited was the John Hansard Gallery. This was a much smaller scale building however the artwork actually started priory to entry. A bench positioned in the square opposite had a fluorescent orange circle stuck on. The idea was that if you sat on the shape and looked at the building then the wording on the wall of the gallery matched up with the letter ‘O’s on a window in front. I thought the interactivity from even before entry was really inviting and worked really well from a marketing point of view.

Overall it was more clean, modern and airy than the first gallery which I found to be more preferable. There were noticeably fewer exhibits however the standard of work was exemplary and I was throughly impressed. The ground floor featured a showroom size instillation. The works were by Hamad Butt and included tubes and metallic structures to fill the space. After enquiring with staff I found that each tube actually contained a poisonous gas and that the room temperature was to be monitored for safety. The biggest piece was in the centre and was a Newton’s Cradle style display of yellow glass equipment (obviously containing gas). It hung from wire and was designed with such simplicity of aesthetic that I was really inspired to minimalism. Although this doesn’t really apply to my writing style, I’m going to try and use a minimalist outlook when putting together my final outcome – hopefully a look book of photography and styling.

I feel that the pieces on display at this gallery were appealing to more of a contemporary taste and wouldn’t therefore be suitable for everyone. The concepts were all very well thought out and this free entry place of art is really worth a visit.

Lastly the group took to Solent University to have a look around the end of year showcase gallery. I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped to be. I felt as though many of the outcomes had been seen before however the standard of work was inspiring and overall everything was well thought out and justified. Some of the look books and photography I found especially useful as this is the pathway I feel I am wanting to explore. There was one magazine in particular by BA Hons Fashion Graphics student Kornelija Poderskyte who’s imagery I thought was really clean and would perhaps be something that you may find within existing publications like i-D or Dazed & Confused. They’re additionally realistic for my standard of work and I am really excited to start shooting and styling for my own look-book.

Today has been beneficial. I’m used to visiting exhibitions around the country alone so it was interesting to get someone else’s perspective on things and compare ideas. Most importantly I’ve expanded on my inspiration and primary materials so can hopefully now begin putting into motion my initial proposal. A huge thank you to Southampton City Art Gallery, John Hansard Gallery and the Solent Showcase Gallery for allowing our visit and all the time and effort put into bringing the Galleries together.

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