Pieces of Eight Review (published 30 May 2012 on http://www.leedsuncut.co.uk)
Set in the stripped back Whitehall Waterfront gallery, the Pieces of Eight PSL art exhibition presents the research work by eight PhD fine art students. An archive of medium and material by artists from the UK, Finland and Sweden has been collected to pose an argument for the importance of contemporary art in a modern world.
The bright, open plan spaces were the perfect setting for the complex, and at times challenging artwork. When asked, a gallery assistant, said “this is a great venue for showing all kinds of work and showcasing artists of different stages.”
‘Field’ by Maija Narhinen was a fun and eye catching piece. On closer inspection you will notice that the arrangement of neutral coloured rocks scattered across the floor are crafted from paper. In fact, they’re so light that the gallery had to stop using a nearby door in case Narhinen’s work blew away. Set aside the sedating projections, ‘Dressing’, ‘Reading’ and ‘Dropping’ by Hui-Hsuan Hsu, a calming and naturalistic environment is created that echoes through the plain backdrop.
Another inspired piece of work was Andy Abbott’s ‘Iron’, ‘Circle Pit’ and ‘Breaking the Law’. His surreal mix of modern rock music and serene outdoor settings combined different forms of media in a skillful and engaging way. Abbott’s little corner in the gallery seemed to stand out as the most entertaining part of the exhibition.
Although some art work was very charming, others felt more clinical. Ian Balch’s selection of strange and simple items was somewhat more difficult to appreciate. His layout is minimalist and at times feels too basic. However, another gallery assistant found these pieces to be her favourite, saying that “the way he utilises space and uses reflections on a flat platform builds through the space instead of being immediate. It takes a minute to get it.”
The very premise of the exhibition seems to be it’s greatest flaw. Much of the art work is clearly of a very high standard, but the fact that these are PhD research pieces means that a sense of inspiration is replaced with one of academia. There is a distinct feeling that the artists lacked creative freedom and that their originality could have been harnessed on a grander scale. Although Fine Art courses are essential to prepare the talent of the future greats, this exhibition really creates no argument of their importance, instead just acting as a platform to showcase a some students’ abilities.
The Pieces of Eight exhibition will be running at the Whitehall Waterfront until the 30th June, before relocating to the former Tetley’s headquarters building next year. For more information click to www.projectspaceleeds.org.uk
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