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The concepts of lightness and darkness are central to our human existence: we work during the day as it provides light and warmth, and sleep during the night to escape the cold and overwhelming dark. This concept is the inspiration for Up North Arts’ latest exhibition un/covered which presents work from 16 artists in either light or dark rooms, based on the symbolic aspects of the piece. The pieces in the dark room mostly explore the relationship between the human mind and technology using pieces created digitally, while the light room explores the human mind and nature, featuring artworks created via analogue methods.
First, I walked into the dark room, a small space illuminated by the lights of TV monitors from the various digital artworks, which gradually became increasingly immersive as I explored the pieces on display. Relationships to technology were explored through references to online culture in Mia Oldham’s video pieces Happy Ghost and The Darkest Future, which both embrace the online aesthetic movement ‘vaporwave’ while contrasting in terms of one offering a positive view of our relationship with technology and the other slightly more ominous. Elsewhere the ideas of femininity and the female form in the digital age were explored in Megan Teece-Round’s video Normalies (leaky fruits) in which a female form is shown eating pieces of fruits, out of focus and close-up to the camera which creates a rather unsettling and sensuous result. The male-gaze is tackled in Elfin Luna’s performance video Body Matter, possibly the most powerfully unsettling video in the exhibition, in which the artist rubs wax from a candle and pulp from the yonic-image of a grapefruit onto her upper body while a series of uncomfortably loud squelching noises gets played into the viewer’s ears through accompanying headphones.
Moving into the white section, the contrast in colour comes as a large shock to the system, featuring a large white space filled with mostly pieces of painted art. This room was interested in showing the natural side of the world, such as in Georgina Harris’ painting Grey Autumn Afternoon, which strived to capture a moment in time by being painted outside during said conditions of the title. It speaks to the human’s mental ability to construct images that the abstract brush-strokes of colour still resemble a recognisable landscape to the viewer. A similar idea was explored in Georgina Carter’s mesmerising painting Mass, which cleverly uses lush circular brushstrokes of different colours to form a structure which is completely unique yet reminiscent of so many other shapes at the same time. Nature is linked to the human mind in Jessica Baird’s Abstracted Memory, which splits a painting across three canvases, each one painted using a different central colour, representing how we tend to recall memories in parts and not as a whole. Gender and body are explored again in Ashleigh Hobb’s fascinating collection of photos Cartographic Metaphor, which depict the human body in various positions, usually slightly obscured by another object, a blurred shot, or high-contrast lighting. The result is a series of raw, yet ethereal pictures that explore and expose our bodies and intimacy,
In between the two rooms was a hallway, featuring a series of photographs by two artists depicting the Northern English coast and Spain respectively. The hallway was neither light or dark, but instead naturally lit. It is Interesting that the exhibition organisers chose to link the two rooms by depicting everyday life, as it seems to suggest that our society is bridged between these two extremes. We embrace the natural world around us during the day and the light, however with developments in technology we are being increasingly capable of functioning at night in the dark is well. Though in the middle right now, with ever-growing dependencies on technologies and the threat of climate change, one wonders if we might be entering further and further into the dark room…