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Lockdown and Covid have both presented more opportunities than normal to reflect on the big questions in life; what should we have for dinner? Who am I? Where do I come from? However, as we have had over a year of fighting with the unknown and trying to overcome a vast number of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, does the concept of home and belonging still feel the same? It is this question that New Perspectives grapples with.
In the Peter Scott Gallery, three artists have presented their perspectives on where we are and how we respond to our local environment each in different ways; the artists in question are Garth Gratrix, Julia Heslop and Gavin Renshaw. Whilst each artist naturally has a different focus, the three perspectives comes together to form an interesting and refreshing insight into how we relate to the campus specifically, as well as the feelings associated with belonging and home more widely.
Garth Gratix’s work forces the visitor to confront ideas surrounding queerness in a challenging way. A photographic series taken around campus captures the multifaceted shades of queerness through the use of multicoloured handkerchiefs in his back pocket; the handkerchiefs were placed in the centre of the gallery, delicately positioned adjacent to one another. It was an effective way to capture not simply queerness and queer space but also some suggestion of a fractious relationship between actually belonging and inclusivity.
Julia Heslop, however, focused on the politics of land with her work named, ‘One Hundred and Thirty Million Pounds of Earth’ drawing attention to the attitudes around student housing and the question of how we value land. Her use of a map allows the viewer to see the wider viewpoint, perhaps even mimicking the detached attitude that people have to such stories however, the use of the brick structure is grounding and the newspaper articles humanising. Although as students we need no reminder that there is a person living in these homes, it made me reflect on the changing demographics in Lancaster, how the money in student housing is pushing the limits of our ability to relate and belong to our urban environment.
Meanwhile, it was Gavin Renshaw’s ink drawings that stole the show for me. His large drawing of Caliban, an engine named after the character from Shakespeare, explores the relationship between the parts and the whole: the fragmented all fitting together to portray an engine being restored; a part of our cultural and industrial heritage. His exploration of Preston though manifold perspectives. We see it from the perspective of a skateboard exploring the streets and from an artist drawing what he sees before him but also through the maps layered on top of each other showing how the relief of the landscapes aid and abet the development of our urban environment. This fluid boundaries between nature and human development is something that should be at the forefront of our minds as students of Lancaster. The ominous lakes tower above our ever-expanding urban landscape, a reminder of everything we stand to lose when the mutual respect is forgotten.
Overall, the exhibition explores our locality in a way most fitting for the end of a turbulent and unexpected academic year. I am leaving Lancaster behind now having never felt more removed from the campus and the student body but when I was looking at this exhibition I realised how much this was the case. I, as everyone has, have spent a year hiding on the other side of my laptop dwelling in my student flat with a diminutive attitude towards the importance of my own relationship with my identity as a Lancaster Uni student but as I continue to count my lasts at university, it has struck me that this was a mistake. New Perspectives, for all the fellow leavers reading this, is therefore less about new perspectives but rather the importance of re-establishing yourself within the Lancaster University body before leaving with a sense of not belonging.
Lancaster Arts’ exhibition, New Perspectives, is open until the 9th July in the Peter Scott Gallery. Book your free viewing slot through the Lancaster Arts website here.