Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Review - Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

There are two Ikon Galleries but one is closed until the Spring. A good excuse for a further trip.

I thought New Zealand Artist Darcy Lange's exhibition of 'Work Studies in Schools' was going to leave me cold. A room full of school desks with video screens showing a picture of school life in Birmingham of the 1970's with recordings of lessons and feedback from pupils and staff. His studies of Oxfordshire schools (1977) compared art, history and science teaching in private and state schools.

However, as soon as I sat at one of the desks and put the headphones on I was hooked on many levels and enjoyed flitting between desks to catch the next class and assess whether the member of staff was Mr Nice or Miss Nasty. The link to your own education is obvious and any comparison is made from that social, historical and political opinion. The digitally reworked videos are a great social history of the area and documentary film-making as a genre. It was interesting to see teachers' own opinions or political views being stamped on young minds with the eyes of an adult and the realisation of how much good or damage can be done to our children, often unwittingly but also by design. Fascinating stuff.

The Roumanian artist Victor Man's exhibition 'Attebasile' required a lot more serious reflection and I felt quite lost at first in the stark space containing untitled artefacts, black and white with shades of grey . The paper handout made little sense of the exhibits and I found it annoying trying to match one with the other. The work had a sense of darkness and was embedded in a cultural context that was
at first difficult to interpret. Roumanian folk art, politics and fear expressed through lovingly crafted little sculptural pieces. It was helped by the curator-video tucked away at the back and I revisited the work with a different perspective. I couldn't help feeling that I needed to see this work in Victor's house - it was more personal narrative than commercial venture and although the curator was keen to tell us that he had developed a close working relationship with the artist, I left with more questions than answers.

Oh, and there's a nice little Spanish Restarant/Cafe in the gallery.

For information:-

No comments: