Exploring Regional Spaces - Spike Island, Bristol

Posted by Andy Wicks on 04th October 2011

 

I love going to regional galleries. Whenever I leave London to meet friends or family I always check to see what new spaces I can take in whilst there. Most regions now have their own publically funded gallery; many of the newer spaces with striking architectural statements – look at the newly opened Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire and Turner Contemporary, Kent. Both designed by David Chipperfield Architects and both hoped to be the catalyst of regeneration of industrial waterside sites.

An area that has seen much regeneration over the last couple of decades is Bristol’s harbour-side, home to the Arnolfini . The Arnolfini has been on my radar since a visit in a 2000 when I caught a Liam Gillick exhibition. But on this occasion my destination was the lesser known Spike Island, a mere mile along the riverbank. Spike Island is a funded space that I’ve known of more for its onsite artists studios. In the exhibition space was 'Structure & Material', a show of 3 exciting female sculptors, including the work of flavour of the month & current Turner Prize nominee Karla Black, along with Claire Barclay and Becky Beasley.

Installation view of 'Structure & Material', with with works by Becky Beasley and Karla Black

Black had a couple of crumpled suspended pieces along with a large powder rectangle marked out on the floor. As always with her work, I had to search through the literature to take in all different everyday materials used (such as toothpaste, nail varnish, soap, bath bombs and polythene) which caused much bemusement to the family members who were dragged on this jaunt with me.

One wall had Beasley’s beautiful yet playful Walnut shelves hinged in various combinations, each replicating the length of her father’s arms, with hinges replacing joints in a variety of flexing positions. In a way reminiscent of Donald Judd’s 'Stacks', which had limply twisted in the middle likes arms of a clock. Beasley also presented a series of Silver Gelatin photographic prints of various mundane objects; the images were almost ghostly, reproduced in grey scale, seemingly with two prints joined in the middle by a crease exposed onto the surface of the print.

Installation view of 'Structure & Material', with with works by Becky Beasley and Claire Barclay

Barclay’s work consisted of a number of freestanding fabricated metal construction often involving draped fabrics, which visually have an element of the everyday, but lack an approachable functionality.

Reading the show in terms of form and shape the works could be seen as crisp and overtly conceptual. But the inventive use of, and inexhaustible list of materials lifts the works and creates a strong connection between each of the artists. Whether its hard metal used by Barclay or soft crumbled paper of Black’s work, there is a fragility and elegance to the individual pieces above the sum of their parts.

Installation view of 'Structure & Material', with with works by Becky Beasley and Karla Black