I find myself standing in the street outside the Talbot Rice Gallery, here to view Counterpoint’s showcase of eight contemporary artist’s work. I find myself here on the back of a recommendation from the festival’s art director, interviewed in last month’s FMG Monthly. My curiosity roused, I cross the threshold into the building. Many beautiful, intriguing and provocative pieces adorned the walls and floors. Of the eight artists, two in particular captured my imagination.
The first of these artists is Craig Mulholland. As you walk into the first room, placed right by the stairs for the second level, Mulholland’s installation – constructed from various materials and media, including sand paper, wood and visual projections – takes the shape of a bowling lane, a singular slice extracted from an alley which appears to be in some state of disrepair. I find myself searching for the background to this intriguing construction before me, and in this search my mind connects this sight with emotion, a longing for narrative, as if entering an abandoned, aged property, which oozes character. Upon the wall above the lane, the words “Potemkin Function” are projected in a font reminiscent of the fond neon squiggle used by many establishments to indicate whether they are open or closed. Thin wooden bricks have replaced the pins and these too are displayed in the projection which cycles through moving images of a bowling ball being cast down the lane towards these bricks. For me, Mulholland’s bowling alley offers an insight into how the picture painted can often differ from the actual function. The warping of an area usually utilised solely for recreational purposes into an area harrowed by black paint reminds me of how propaganda is utilised to portray whomever in disfavour in a negative and objectified light. As this feeling rested inside me, I made my way through to the next room of Counterpoint’s exhibition.
Before me lies two full size street lamps, a neat stack of magazines cut zig-zag down their middle, and a large wall of corrugated iron graphitized with black spray paint – an eclectic mix provided by artist, Keith Farquhar. Farquhar’s intention is to “rework the inherited visual of the original appropriated work”. As I stand by these full size street lamps I begin to have some comprehension of Farquhar’s goal in these pieces. Removal of these commonplace functional installations from their usual surroundings and placed with intention on the floor by one another, they begin to feel personified, as if feeling emanates from them. I noticed that I no longer found this material object to be simply that, instead I began to form some type of human connection with them. From when I entered the room, I had presumed the writing on the steel wall to be written in spray paint but upon closer inspection, the paint is pixelated at it’s edges, and within the exhibition booklet, my curiosity is sated. Farquhar reveals his use of a large UV printer – which can print on any material – to create the text within the graffiti. Graffiti, created outwith artistic purpose, is often considered a thoughtless act of vandalism alluding to the carelessness of its creator. Farquhar however, appropriates graffiti, using the UV printer to create what appears to be spray paint. Through this exact act we reconsider this “graffiti”, knowing now it has been carefully and thoughtfully created.
Leaving the Talbot Rice Gallery, I am left with a feeling of lightness and whimsy. All too often artwork and exhibitions are portrayed as being heavy events for the soul – Counterpoint’s Exhibition however, is not such an event. Despite no conscious thematic connection between the eight artist’s works, the quality of each piece creates a feeling of unity. Evident throughout all the work on display is a demonstration of each individual artist’s ability to play and experiment with mediums and media, ultimately creating work that is fascinating, stimulating and wholly intriguing.