Plymouth Art Weekender 2017

By Lawrence Hyne

Plymouth Council House Art weekender. Photo credit GreenBeanz Photography

Plymouth Council House Art weekender. Photo credit GreenBeanz Photography

Plymouth’s Annual Art Weekender returned with a smorgasboard of disperate cultural delights for art lovers of all ages, spread across the city in venues as intimate as garden sheds and city buses, to the established galleries and great open spaces that are transforming the city from within. The art itself was as individual and varied as those making it.

Made up of work by locals like JOJO, the cities own mononymous character photographer. His show ‘U + Me = Us’ , adorning one wall on the Royal William Yards Ocean Studios, and visiting artists like Peter Liversidge, whose ‘Sign Paintings’ walked across Plymouth. Created in the council house by a team of skilled artists, Liversidge’s form of proposal based democractic art, using locals own slogans,painted onto placards, helped to really unify this years show. So while JOJO’s work was laid out like a Victorian photo album, the portraits of soul mates and single mums revealing an easy intimacy with his sitters that years of practice cannot but fail to hone, a real lesson in affection, you needed only to look out of the gallery window and somebody carrying a sign painting from the city centre might walk past.

The show is also often a launch pad for work. Effervescent’s ‘I am not a Robot’, presented at the Radiant Gallery, is an immersive interactive show, still showing now, designed by local fostered children. The galleries amazing track record in standing alone as a child curated exhibition space is once again rewarded here with a strong show in which the roles played by foster carers are examined in a touching and beautiful display of sixty fluffy robots, all awaiting somebody to care for them. The sense of theatre , drama and playfulness is made all the more engaging by a brilliant set, and a fantastic score courtesy of Phil Innes and a volunteer choir.

Artists Sam Ackroyd Christian Gale RWY Credit Greenbeanz Photography

Artists Sam Ackroyd Christian Gale RWY Credit Greenbeanz Photography

Louis R Djukic-Performance-eat me-eat you Credit Greenbeanz Photography

Louis R Djukic-Performance-eat me-eat you Credit Greenbeanz Photography

Then there was the opportunity to witness time, as well as site specific, performance work. ‘What Does Not Respect’ based at The Athenaeum featured Louise R-Djukic’s performance ‘Eat me Eat You’. In this piece the artist made bread dough, and then after kneading it into a sizeable mattress, laid upon it using her bodies heat to activate the yeast, and aid it’s rising. Whilst on the surface it may have seemed to be about the distorted relationship between food and body image, it spoke equally of the relationship between artists and material. Artists have long been concerned with separating the creator and the created, but the moment in which the artist here arises after a couple of hours cultivating the yeast, extends the moment of separation and more than that, makes it
visible.

The Athenaeum played host to a series of events and exhibitions including an evening of experimental electronica under the considered and careful curation of Cafe Concrete’s Matthew Coombe. The highlight of the evening being Koombe’s own set of improvisations with bass, electronics and domestic objects. It is always nice when a little nervous energy is allowed to infect an electronic performance, and the performative element of his loop layering, imbued the whole piece, particularly the final composition, with an elegant vulnerability with which the audience could empathise.

The importance of location and sound was also evident in ‘Benthic Caress’ the one hour long ecoacoustic participatory performance piece by Laura Denning in collaboration with Take a Part, and the artists featured. Set in Devil’s Point tidal sea pool. The work saw 100 people stood, sat and walking around the pool, set as it is looking out to sea, with headphones on listening to a curated programme of sound works with the saline wilderness situated at the centre of the experience. It negated a lot of the supposed inaccessibility of sound work, in allowing the listeners the freedom to engage with the work on their own terms. There is nothing so friendly and familiar as a the British
seaside, and the inclusion of such easy listening classics as Ronald Binge’s “Sailing By”, triggered a beautiful moment, demonstrating this, in which a couple embraced, and danced along the sea wall.

Benthic-Caress-Devils-Point-Tidal-Pool-Plymouth Credit Greenbeanz photography
 Credit Greenbeanz photography
 Credit Greenbeanz photography

 Credit Greenbeanz photography

 Photo credit GreenBeanz Photography
 Photo credit GreenBeanz Photography

Matt-Coombe-Art-Weekender. Credit Greenbeanz Photography

Another example of literally expanding the reach of the Plymouth Art Show, was The Wonder Zoo bus tour of Plymouth. Members of the Fantasy Orchestra Plymouth, the comedy Avengers, Nick Ingram MC and Peter Davey join art lovers and confused commuters on a irreverent charabanc ride around the city. The highlight was Marion Claire’s amazing poem “Whales”. Performed with great craft, wit, nuance, and embellished by a handy megaphone for the giant mammalian punch lined chorus, she held a captivated audience, that had they been out shopping, would no doubt have missed their stop.

The cities role as a center for arts education is well represented at this festival, with not only the University and PCA hosting exhibitions from established artists, but also by providing a platform for emerging artists in shows across Plymouth . Masters students were represented in the Mills Bakery building at The Royal William Yard with their own graduation show open to the public. The most striking of these pieces for me was that of Monica Shanta. In ‘Death is a Place’ the artist is sat on a white galley floor, plaiting what looks like black wool, into a long coiled rope laid out as a perfect circle on which she sits. Reminiscent of Hirst’s ‘Black Sun’ , Shanta’s work instead of focusing on stasis and the end of movement, reminds us that life is indeed a journey. We are all at the centre of our own big black dots, weaving the inevitability of our own demise with every seemingly meaningful interaction, twist and turn.

Again on the floor but this time from one of Plymouth’s own inspirational educators, was Tony Hill’s poetic remake of his own 1975, ‘Floor Film’. Originally shot on 16mm and shown at Tate Britain in London and the George Pompidou Centre in Paris, now remade in high definition, it is a triumph of unpretentious lyricism. It is billed as a film that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages, and whilst
I was in the tent, a father and his 18 month old daughter demonstrated this very clearly, taking advantage of the one of the pieces strokes of genius. A soft floor. The little girl loved interacting with the ebbing tide, the giant vocalising mouth and anything else the film threw onto the malleable mattress.

Far from being useless, Elefante Blanco, large though the giant inflated white tent is, proves an unwitting but very fitting tribute to the pioneering spirit of the Red House ,in which the performance was staged. Three different artists, a dancer, designer and musician from Bristol, have created a performance/installation piece in which the obscured and silhouetted form of the dancer reacts to a sound track, which itself evolves and reflects a freedom and willingness to play with light, timbre and space, highlighted here with the simple use of first a red, and then green light.

Here is to next year, and another weekend of recognising, celebrating and indulging the senses in three days of art and creativity, that speaks to Plymouth and all that visit her over the duration.

Tony-Hill-Floor-Film Credit Greenbeanz Photography
Plymouth-Art-Weekender-2017-Feminist-Fusion Credit Greenbeanz Photography

Credit Greenbeanz Photography