New Art at MK Gallery, Milton Keynes / 3 August 2011
I had a very positive meeting with Head of Learning, Emma Fry at MK Gallery in Milton Keynes. They're developing lots of new initiatives to support Artist film and video, including the creation of a permanent gallery for the work; and the programming of more workshops and expansion of the number of artists they work with.
We also chatted briefly about the galleries relationship with the Turner Prize, as I was interested in this aspect of the arts and in particular how I might get to know more about the art world through looking at the careers of other successful artists, in particular Phil Collins' artist film and video work shown at the gallery. Emma was quick to point out that it’s not something the gallery thinks about much, other than to give shows to artists at the right time in their careers, and for artists like Phil Collins and Cathy Wilkes, that insight by the galleries artistic director has obviously paid off - both artists were nominated for the Turner Prize directly following their solo shows at the gallery.
After the meeting I had a look at the current exhibition, a diverse selection of work by local artists. I was struck by one photograph from Frazer Waller's series of photographs of car boot sales. When I looked closely I noticed a mans’ reflection in one of the mirrors for sale, which had been placed on the ground. I wondered if the photographer noticed it as he was taking it, or after. Car boot sales certainly seem the ideal place to take photos without anybody noticing.
Stuart Southwell explores identities in a series of dark self portraits. The artist wears grotesque masks, though I couldn’t help wondering whether the artist was hiding something from us. Jason Smiths video installation seems to be about how many people you can fit into a structure, as he explores his surroundings through his work.
I loved Jamie Chalmers work, his stitch series with messages from spam emails - something you don’t always expect on embroidery. Kamil Szkopik's photographs are exquisite, as are Lauren Keeley's paintings.
Emma Wilde's drawings of birds are incredibly detailed and something I would have loved to see more of. Caroline Devines sound work was made more interesting after reading the description... a spoken word recording of a record contract, made on vinyl. Her blurb reads that Devine is "interested in exploring voices that may be silenced or are in some way absent." Devine was the winner of the £8000 prize fund, and I think overall a good choice.
New Art MK: Eight Artists From Milton Keynes is on show until 19 September 2011. Go to www.mkgallery.org/exhibitions/new_art_MK for more detail