Sheffield Art Festival 2013 – Curators/Artists Talk

Both Calum and I attended the Curators and Artists brunch in Sheffield for the Sheffield Art Festival 2013. We had no idea what to expect or what was going to be discussed as the brief on their website was rather ambiguious. However we felt that it could be something worth while to discuss on here and perhaps learn something new.

It consisted of Curator, Laura Sillars and included Zero Hours writer Tom Morton, Artist and Advisor Keith Wilson and previous Art Sheffield Curator Gavin Wade. They each began by addressing questions to one another regarding the festival, Joseph Beuys and the concept of ‘Zero Hours’ – the title for the project. Much of it was focused on the Joseph Beauys work currently residing in Graves Gallery as this is the focus of the festival. The chair discussed the artist and his political views and attachment to Karl Marx. Due to Beuys being a revolutionist of his time, his work in Graves Gallery reflects this. It is an installation of a single work made in 1980 by the German artist, featuring metal shelves stacked with packets of food and other basic products purchased in the former German Democratic Republic.



Much of the discussion focused on this work and how the other artists fitted into it and the concept of ‘Zero Hours’, a title created to highlight the notion of when does an artists clock in/ clock out? How do we know when and how an artist works? Zero Hours is a common phrase in today’s working environment to non committal working hours. It essentially reflects the recession and how it affects artists.

During the conversations, it was apparent that the other artists participating in the festival were not actually made aware of the Beuys piece prior to creating a piece of work for this festival. This did seem a little strange to me as the Sheffield Art Festival’s aims were for it to revolve around the art work by Beuys.

It had been discussed by the chair that actually, there was not enough time for the festival project and that they would have rather had a singular space for each artist.  To look at it as a whole, perhaps there are some flaws in how the Sheffield Art Festival 2013 has come together in terms of the connections of the art work and exhibition spaces but time and money can dictate everything.

So much so, Gavin Wade had discussed that there was a disappointment with the Graves Gallery space which the Beuys piece resides as it is a museum setting with a barrier around the work, which stopped you exploring the work up close and in detail. Wade expressed that it made it not a piece of art because of the line. This is something I completely agree on but he argued that art is a luxury, a waste – it is needed to allow you to take the time within a civilised society to create, to extend your own experiences.

The Beuys piece is exhibited on the top floor of Grave’s gallery, where you must walk through the gift shop to get to it, where it stands in a rather uninviting space. For me, the space was lack lustre and didn’t do the piece justice. However I posed the question to the panel, whether or not our minds are warped by the notion of the ‘white cube’ space and that this is the only true and appropriate way to showcase art. It opened a discussion that widened the understanding of how one chooses to display art over that, sometimes the decision isn’t ours to make. Laura Sillars made a valuable point that, Graves Gallery was the only place it could be exhibited because it needed the right conditions to be exhibited, having being lent by S.M.A.K Gent and one million pounds worth of insurance. The decision of Graves Gallery was one of practicality and preservation. On my second visit of the work after this discussion. It was also argued by Wade that because the artist had died a long time ago, that his work in fact was a museum piece, preserving his legacy and his thoughts and that Graves Gallery is the only place for it.

The brunch continued it’s discussion with the artists involvement and experiences of Sheffield Art Festival 2013 as well as hearing from other local curators and how to continue providing Sheffield with new and exciting art. But for me, the discussion about the placing of art work, the role the Curator actually plays was one of value.

I encourage everyone to explore Sheffield Art Festival 2013 and share your opinions on the work and it’s display. In today’s society, the art world is very much confined by the amount of funding and the time, which is something the general public does not see. It is refreshing to know where Sheffield Art Festival had it’s issues and viewed the spaces with it in mind and acknowledge the hard working Curators’ that put much time and effort into bringing a selection of interesting works for Sheffield’s community.

Sheffield Art Festival 2013 – Parallel Projects

One of the ideas for the Sheffield Art Festival 2013 opening night was for everyone to start the art crawl at The Graves Gallery to see the Joseph Beuys piece ‘Economic Values’ then head toward the other galleries showing the ‘Zero Hours’ exhibition.

However, we weren’t aware of this on the night so we started off our evening of art at the ‘Parallel Projects’ exhibition showing below S1 Artspace, which as the name suggests, was an exhibition running alongside ‘Zero Hours’.


It is a really great space and it has to be the biggest venue housing an exhibition in this years festival. When you walk into it, it is impossible to ignore Nicholas Party‘s gargantuan piece entitled ‘Painted Floor’. It took up the majority of the warehouse building floor which was painted white with numerous colours dribbled, splashed and lacquered over this endless white canvas. There was a lot of talk about the comparison to Jackson Pollock and it is unclear if this is was intentional by the artist or was it just an easy way to describe the piece. I am questioning this because personally, the piece did not feel like a pastiche of a Pollock painting but something rather unique. This may sound peculiar due to it being aesthetically close to a Pollock and the process of making it would be almost identical though on a larger scale but that is where the similarities end. The shapes Party made were very different, they were more of a fluid swirling and circling sweeps of paint, but the biggest difference and unique quality is the scale of the work. This makes it an interactable and explorable piece and really brings in the viewer in a fun and exciting way. Rather than just standing and looking at a painting we are instead jumping over the paint and the work instantaneously becomes an installation that is remeniscent of being a child playing ‘Hot Lava’ where you imagine the floor being lava and the aim is to avoid it at all costs.


The other piece that was on display that I really enjoyed was a piece by Sunshine Wong. Although her name is not stated in any of the festivals marketing that she was the artist, she is stated as the curator. The work is called ‘Be Our Guest‘ and is comprised of three videos playing simultaneously with headphones provided, placed on a map of Sheffield. Each video is about an artist answering questions about social engagement and connection to the city and art. The map guided you through the conversation, which reflected their journey as you listened. The style of the films were polished, effortless mini documentaries. Sunshine had stated that each of the videos was the work of the artists featured, however the interviews were written by Sunshine, the videos were made by her and the exhibition was also set up by Sunshine. Which poses the question that can Sunshine be the artist as well as the curator of these intriguing and insightful video interviews?

The Parallel Projects exhibition was refreshing because they had no connection to the Beuys work or the theme of ‘Zero Hours’. They had separated their exhibition from the direct aims of the festival, where most of the other artworks such as at Site Gallery and Bloc Projects were in response to the concept of the Beuys piece and the ‘Zero Hours’ title. The fact that Parallel Projects had detached their exhibition from this was interesting in itself because you didn’t need to contextualise the works to the underlining themes of Art Sheffield 2013. It became it’s own piece of art in itself, with it’s own interpretation’s of the importance of art and community in Sheffield as well as being a part of Sheffield Festival 2013.


Sheffield Art Festival 2013

To kick off our new and improved blog we will be doing the rounds on this years Sheffield Art Festival. We will be attending exhibitions at S1 Artspace, Bloc Projects, Site Gallery and Graves Gallery and talks at Site Gallery, S1 and Graves.

Art Sheffield 2013 looks to be bigger and better than the previous festivals and we will be your eyes and ears. We will be first reviewing the show Zero Hours and more specifically the work displayed at S1 Artspace including artwork by Elena Bajo, Ryan Mosley and Katja Strunz.

It is a great time of the year to be in the North for art, like the promotional material says for the Sheffield Art Festival 13 “revealing the breadth of artistic creativity that makes Sheffield home to the largest population of artists in the UK outside of London.”

So if you are looking for a great art scene outside of London come to Sheffield for these next few months and dive into a diverse city full of equally diverse venues and enjoy Sheffield Art Festival 2013.