Portfolio NW is a new exhibition at the Bluecoat featuring the work of 8 north-west based artists, including Rebecca Chesney, Tadhg Devlin, Dave Evans, 0point3recurring (David Henckel, Dan Wilkinson & Leon Hardman), Hannah Wooll and Kai-Oi Jay Yung.
The work on display differs vastly in medium: from Kai-Oi Jay Yung’s dance workshops, to 0point3recurring’s video installation, to Tadhg Devlin photographic portraits of Irish emigrants. Each artist has a unique interest, and the exhibition brings together a broad cross-section of modern working practices.
Most interesting for me by far, was Rebecca Chesney’s Still in Silence. Her collection is based on the fascinating story of a village in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania called Vadu Zbor. The village was abandoned in 1933, following the mass emigration of every local bird, which plunged the community into silence. The village remains in silence to this day, and no one has ever returned.
Chesney’s video interview with Gheorghe Popescu, one of the only surviving descendants of the village, is truly haunting, as he tells of how ‘all the birds had gone and no one could sleep’. The juxtaposition of the lingering camera shots of abandoned homes and dilapidated buildings as Popescu talks about the deafening birdsong before the swarms of birds left, is jarring and eerie.
Hannah Wooll’s work delivers a similar sense of the uncanny: her images of skinny, long-haired girls, hunched naked in forests are very unsettling. The female figures in her work all possess the same swollen, tired eyes which bore into the face of the viewer, and the strange, surreal, monkey-like mammals that crop up in many of the images, contribute to this sense of warped fantasy.
The figures themselves are all very similar, and one wonders who Wooll’s muse could be? Looking like a lonely fantasy princess, or equally an un-dead horror story heroine, her portraits reference historical and contemporary depictions of women, in a dreamlike and intriguing manner.
Lastly, I found Dave Evans’ science fiction- inspired installation work to be equally fantastic and other-worldly. Evans uses everyday objects and simple materials, such as paper, and manipulates them to ‘evolve’, in order to transcend their usual perceptible identities. Here, Evans has created huge, cylindrical shapes by hammering paper, which are suspended in wooden crates to produce an interactive scene which the viewer can walk through.
Evans’ explanation of his work is at once fascinating and confusing, as he references St John’s Market amongst his influences, yet speaks of the ‘ambition of narrative’ to describe his work. It seems that Evans is heavily influenced too, by Henri Bergson’s definition of ‘duration’; measured incrementally, yet experienced as a complex, subjective unfurling. This notion informs Evans’ efforts to use time to free objects from the constrictions of their original definition, and his work subtly references a diverse and unique set of ideas to provoke thought from the viewer.
Portfolio NW continues at The Bluecoat until 15 September.
This post was written for www.corridor8.co.uk