Wednesday, 19 August 2009

New Kids on the Block

Bristol has been blessed with a new free music and art rag this month in the perfectly formed shape of Crack Magazine. Inspired by the likes of Plan B and The Wire, Crack attempts to take on the Bristol art and music scene with a elegant combo of strokably expensive matt paper, large helpings of literary-style prose and a good deal of youthful cockiness. The current issue features interviews with urban artist Hollis and undulating jazz maestros Portico Quartet, among album reviews, gig previews and a mini-festival guide. Pick up your very own copy from one of the many independent retailers on Gloucester Road or Park Street or download the PDF here.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Back to the Future

My review of the Arnolfini's latest exhibition 'Sequelism Part 3: Possible, Probable or Preferable Futures via Suit Yourself Magazine.

Even before entering the Arnolfini’s whitewashed innards, I’d already discovered that this exhibition’s title alone required a hefty amount of brainwork. Sequelism is a made-up term that has been constructed to mimic the recent phenomenon for moulding new words from hybrid mutants of already existing and quite sensible terms – think ‘synergy’ – to represent emerging concepts and movements. In this case, the title is intentionally void of a concrete meaning and anticipates definition in the future. It might seem a little odd to name an exhibition with a seemingly meaningless moniker but for a show that is all about what our visualisation of the future say about present social identity and fears, it makes a certain amount of sense for a future date to allow us to define a current exhibition. Lost yet?

As often happens when an exhibition is dictated by a concept rather than a particular artist or movement, Sequelism is a motley crew of very different pieces. Immediately visible is Haegue Yang’s Holiday For Tomorrow, whose rainbow coloured blinds and lattice panels give the impression of forming an intimate chamber within the gallery space. Light and not entirely solid, it houses a film featuring images of Seoul during the Korean harvest holiday Chuseok. Using a rather miserable sounding female voice, the piece explores both the emotional anticipation of holidays and the oddness of experiencing socially contrived days of rest.

On the opposite wall, Graham Gussin’s Hypnotic/Dystopic/Optic is a kaleidoscope of whirling science fiction novels where – the original cover indecipherable – the books form hypnotic blurs of colour. The way that the artwork has been supplied with power means that each sunflower-like head has an electric stem, which all join on the floor in a tangle of cable and socket roots. For me the strongest work of the show, it almost acts as traditional landscape painting made from modern technology and unidentifiable fictions of the future.

In the second room a taxidermy fox head stares blankly at the viewer, suspended by wrought iron supports. Somewhere between a voodoo fetish and a mechanical altar, it seems to hark back to the primeval animal deities and yet draws on present day controversy over the hunting ban. Another piece by Romanian Victor Man sees patent black text on wall reading “we die,” crossed out with wiggly neon cross. The use of a comma rather than full stop anticipates future syntax, and perhaps the afterlife, but is instantly negated by the gaudy neon tubing.

Sequelism is a challenging exhibition that was at times thought provoking but often alienating. Although this is often an intentional feature of both sci-fi and futurology, much of the work felt cold and introverted rather than awe-inspiring. It’s important, however, for galleries to put on difficult shows like this to avoid becoming crowd-pleasing, art-for-postcards merchandise factories and even if this one wasn’t entirely my cup of tea, I’ll definitely be back to see what boundaries the Arnolfini are crossing next time.

Exhibiting between Saturday 8th July until Sunday 20th September 2009 @ Arnolfini, Bristol

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Bear Necessities

A few weeks ago I decided to give myself a 3-month clothing challenge of ditching high street brands and buying only from local boutiques and independent designers. So far, it's been pretty easy. Mainly because I'm incredibly skint and haven't bought anything at all. Not even lentils. But after I received a few shiny pennies for a writing job I did yonks ago, I thought I'd dust off my debit card and see what local gems I could discover.

Bristol's a wealth of creative talent and many of the city's top-notch graffiti artists and illustrators also have their fingers firmly caked in various fashion industry pies. Gloucester Road's new hip-hop paradise Avalaan, Park Street's My Yard (formerly BS8) and queens of urban patchwork, Shop Dutty, all stock pieces from local creatives as does a number of the city's smaller galleries, like Weapon of Choice.

After a lot of indecisive flailing, I finally invested in a sweater from Bristol label Grizzly Nights. Their gorgeous current collection features delicately penned line drawings of some of nature's most fearsome creatures... and some pretty birds. Menacing tigers, open-jawed bears and a rather mashed looking owl were all up for grabs but in the end I settled on two wolves howling at the... well, at my face. I love their simple but charming designs and thanks to their online shop I'll be back for more, even after the London move.

Whether I can afford to explore Bristol's indie threads any further in the coming months still remains to be seen but one things for sure - I won't be crawling back to Topshop.

Monday, 10 August 2009

The End of a Supergiant

To my delight I stumbled across the very fine handiwork of illustrator Ashley Le Quere when passing the window of Start the Bus this morning. She's intricately penned a herd of now defunct Woolworths shop fronts in all their different and charmingly wonky incarnations. Maybe it's just my magpie-like nature but I'm really drawn to art that hinges on collecting things, especially if it has some sort of social-historical slant. I wonder what will come to fill all these empty shells.