ABOVE : Plymouth Art Weekender 2017 One of Peter Liversidge's Protest signs carried past one of Elmgreen and Dragset's 'A Good Neighbour' billboards
Plymouth Art Weekender 2017 | Devon and Cornwall Art and Event Photography
Last weekend the annual Plymouth Art Weekender unfurled in venues across the city, bringing together art lovers and artists from outside and inside the city in a celebration of creativity that focused attention on a vital sector of the regions cultural, economic and educational portfolio. In an effort to create a lasting dialogue between the arts and people, the citywide arts show has pioneered an attitude of openness in presenting work that is truly engaging with the public.
From garden sheds to the cities own Council House and Civic Centre, in Devonport Park and Plymouth University, on buses and in tunnels at the Royal William Yard and the Barbican , the work could be found in every corner of Plymouth.
ABOVE : Plymouth Art Weekender venue sign outside Plymouth School of Creative Arts (The Red House)
JOJO the cities own mononymous character photographer, exhibited 'U + Me = Us' a show adorning one wall on the Royal William Yards Ocean Studios. It was a lesson in affection. Laid out like a Victorian photo album the portraits of soul mates and Single mums reveals an easy intimacy with his sitters that years of practice cannot but fail to hone. The pictures are not grouped into two camps, so the effect is much like a wall in somebodies home. It invites you in, and encourages you to peer at the people featured, eager to learn more about them and what may be portrayed by the subtle choice of location, clothes or props that surround them.
ABOVE : Plymouth Photographer JOJO's Exhibition 'U + Me = Us' at Ocean Studios
Effervescent's 'I am not a robot' presented at the Radiant Gallery is an immersive interactive show designed by local fostered children. The ground breaking dynamic arts company has been a glowing example of how to curate collaboratively for years now here in the city, and reminds many of us to look outward, demonstrating how to engage with the public by trusting them.
ABOVE : A Robot waiting to be cared for at Plymouth's Radiant Gallery
Radiant 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.
ABOVE : Councillor Philippa Davey completeing an application at the bureau for fostering fluff at Effervescent's 'I am not a Robot' show
'What Does Not Respect' based at The Athenaeum featured Louise R-Djukic's performance 'Eat me Eat You' , in which the artist makes bread dough and then after kneading it into a sizeable mattress then lies upon it using her bodies heat to activate the heat and aid it's rising. Whilst on the surface it may seem to be all about the distorted relationship between food and body image foisted on western females by a complicit and unrealistic media image of size zero femininity, it speaks also 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.
ABOVE : Louise R-Djukic's performance 'Eat me Eat You' in the tunnel at The Plymouth Athenaeum
Friday also saw the official launch of 'We The People Are The Work', a major visual arts project exploring ideas of power, protest and the public in a collaboration between five internationally renowned artists and the people of Plymouth.
Matt Stokes ' UK multi-screen film 'More than a Pony' opened at the gallery of Plymouth College of Art. The work documents five Plymouth bands from the PUNK DIY scene, in five different locations, “exploring punks legacy of protest and resistance”. There is much to recommend, in the choice of bands and venues, the spotlight thrown onto a vital and visceral piece of what makes Plymouth's music scene refuse to die.
ABOVE : Plymouth College of Art host venue for Matt Stoke's (UK) 'More than a Pony' show
The Wonder Zoo bus tour of Plymouth saw 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 works outing started with a lively rendition of the Sound of Music as we left Royal Parade, and though many of us never quite hit the right notes, the laughs were more frequent than a lot of the services.
ABOVE : Plymouth Fantasy Orchestra playing on the PAW WonderZoo Bus Tour
The highlight was Marion Claire's amazing poem “Whales”. Performed with great craft, wit and 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
BELOW: Marion Claire performs her poem 'Whales' to a captive audience
ABOVE : The WonderZoo Bus tour of Plymouth. Part of the Art Weekender Bus Sessions
'Benthic Caress' the one hour long eco-acoustic participatory performance piece by Laura Denning in collaboration with Take a Part and the artists featured, was 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.
ABOVE : A listener absorbs the sounds of Laura Denning's Benthic Caress on the Plymouth Coast
Bringing sound outside into the boundless wide open space that is the sea's edge seems to be an easy way of allowing the general public, whose experience of sonic work has been previously deferred due to a perception that it is a solitary and self indulgent, indoor intellectual exercise, a no brainer.
BELOW : The tidal pool at Devil's point served as a venue for 'Benthic Caress'
Benthic Caress negates 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 in which a couple embraced, and dance along the sea wall.
ABOVE : A couple dance to Ronald Binge's 'Sailing By' on the sea wall at Plymouth's Devil's Point Tidal Pool
The cities role as a prime educator 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.
ABOVE : Monica Shants's enigmatic 'Death is a place' performed at The Royal William Yard
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.
ABOVE : Laura Edmunds 'A Soft Introduction' Ocean Studios at The Royal William Yard
The little marks continue in Laura Edmunds explorations of energy at Ocean Studios. 'A Soft Introduction' examines residual effect through drawing and sound. This study attempts to capture energy through space, and the intricate but zoetic marks are here presented, often along tiny lines, like a vastly expanded stave on which the excitable notes are given free reign to express their progress through time. There is a delighted child spinning in-between the installed sound work nearby, as if to certify the presence of velocity in the room.
ABOVE : Emerge held a show entitled 'Together' showing work from some of the cities Reugee population
Further along the studios, in the Emerge space, is the work of some of the cities refugees. The photographs produced in conjunction with Fotonow CIC and Devon and Cornwall Refugee support is inspired by the theme of artists Elmgreen and Dragset .(' A Good Neighbour' works, that are up on billboards around the civic centre).
ABOVE : Jenny Melling's paintings at The Royal William Yard
The photographs are representative of a way of exploring not only the city, but the place of these new arrivals within it and the way they respond to it. There are also Jenny Mellings simple but touching and effective paintings of the 'Jungle' camp in Calais in a tent, situated somewhat incongruously on the opulent green at the entrance to the Royal William Yard, to mirror both sides of the conversation.
ABOVE : 'Together' photographic exhibition, Ocean Studios at The Royal William Yard
The theme of communities and places that symbolise Plymouth as a place to depart from, continues in Sam Akroyd and Christian Gales 'Bretonside'. Comprised of paintings, and sound again, the home to the same vibrant culture that is touched upon in Matt Stokes film of the Bus Station Loonies (PUNK ), is remarked upon here, by two of the cities citizens of Rave Culture. The piece is a little hemmed, in within this small room, but serves as a precursor to a much bigger installation planned for the future, where Bretonside and the communities that thrived in and around the clubs and icnonic building that was the Bus Station, will be explored and celebrated.
ABOVE : Christian Gale and Sam Ackroyd's 'Bretonside' part of the Plymouth Art Weekender at Ocean Studios in The Royal William Yard
BELOW: The Artists Christian Gale and Sam Ackroyd at The Royal William Yard
There is an invitation here in the Royal William Yard to explore the artists studios, and a crocheted, or knitted chain, leads you through the space in an inspired and inclusive nod to craftsmanship, and the hand skills of the artisans that once populated these buildings. There was also a plethora of events across the weekend for children and young people to get involved with making, with a fun screen printing workshop here in the ocean studios quadrangle, and a 'Made in Plymouth Maker Space Family Activitie' inside the galley, itself filled with children making prints and 3D stick figures. With the inclusion of a number of events in the Red House in Millbay, and the brilliant, important and moving 'I am not a Robot' at Radiant, it is nice to see young people catered for and recognised as future artists and audience members at this weekender.
ABOVE :Open Studios were a part of the Plymouth Art Weekender at Ocean Studios in The Royal William Yard
Saturday night saw the Junction opened up for 'Feminist Fusion' a night of all female or female led bands with live poetry art and speeches and games.
BELOW: Husbands and Knives tearing it up at the Feminst Fusion event at The Junction
It is refreshing in a city like Plymouth to have such a strong representation within the arts of scene of women leading the way in innovation, leadership and creation with luminaries like Eloise Malone, Lucy Dafwyn, Hannah Rose, Rachel Dobbs, Dr Hannah Drayson, Julie Ellis, Vickie Fear, Jo Beer, etc arguably leading the resurgence of art in Plymouth from the front.
BELOW: Plymouth Art Weekender 2017 Feminst Fusion at The Junction
So it was nice to see an evening where Feminism was addressed, and female musicians, again very well represented in the local scene (Devon and Cornwall), take front of stage.
ABOVE: The fans at The Junction during 'Husbands and Knives' set
Studio 102 showcased Adrien Bishop's 'I Don't Believe Birmingham Exists' , in which the artist seeks to provoke a critical response by presenting a series of beliefs and challenging them on their ridiculousness . The energised characters staring out from beneath the sloganized beliefs seem deranged,alien and uncertain, at times oddly symbiotic and at others, at odds with their own, often ludicrous, but firmly held beliefs. Bishop is here for a second time in Nick Halford and Marcus Crandon's vibrant and ever changing gallery.
BELOW: Adrien Bishop at Studio 102 showing 'I don't believe Birmingham exists'.
Further along the Barbican and secreted away in the cobbled alleyway of New Street is Paul Hillon and Liam Symes work 'Gestalt'. Both agreeing on the premise of working in monochrome and exploring the idea of Gestalt, the idea that something can be more than the sum of it's parts. Hillon's work here is three dimensional and sculptural with Symes small oil paintings hanging on the walls, working over and around found internet images.
ABOVE: Liam Symes and Paul Hillon's 'Gestalt' at the Barbican's Pipe Gallery
BELOW: Sign Painting at Plymouth's Council House. Part of Peter Liversidge's work.
In one of 'We The People Are The Work' s most succesful iterations, Peter Liversidges 'Sign Paintings' , ( based in a Council House in which Protests are not usually so welcome ) have managed to disperse themselves around the city. I have photographed them myself in their subtle interactions with other work around the city during this show. It was nice to see them being created though, here by a team of skilled artists and volunteers including the talented and thought provoking artist Alan Qualtrough. Painted from a selection that visitors could browse a book to choose from, this form of democracy using locals own slogans again helped to really unify this show, in spreading a message across the miles that encompass our city.
ABOVE: Signs being painted at Plymouth's Council House
ABOVE : Tony Hill, creator of 'Floor Film'
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, 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.
BELOW : Tony Hill's engaging 'Floor Film'
The little girl loved interacting with the ebbing tide, the giant vocalising mouth and anything else the film threw onto the malleable mattress. The other very simple device was the mounting of a camera above the floor film and a projector outside to replay in real time the interactions of audience members, with the film in a more conventional trajectory against a white wall.
ABOVE : Engaging with Tony Hill's elegaic and mesmersing 'Floor Film'
ABOVE : Elefante Blanco at the Plymouth School of Creative Arts
Far from being useless, Elefante Blanco, large though the giant inflated white tent is, proves an unwitting but very fitting tribute 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.
ABOVE : Elefante Blanco part of Plymouth's art Weekender 2017 at the Plymouth Red House
ABOVE : Plymouth Athenaeum host to 'Cafe Concrete' part of Plymouth's Art Weekender 2017
The weekend ends with a return to the Athenaeum and an evening of experimental electronica under the considered and careful curation of Cafe Concrete's Matthew Coombe. The highlight of the evening is 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 per formative element of his loop layering, imbued the whole piece, particularly the final composition, with an elegant vulnerability with which the audience could empathise.
BELOW : Plymouth Athenaeum host to 'Cafe Concrete' part of Plymouth's Art Weekender 2017
Many of the weekends producers, performers, artists and musicians were present, and Neil Rose, the cities own sonic jewel (hovering in the background of, and helping to realise at least two other pieces over the weekend) did a sterling job of kneading our leaven heavy tired shoulders, and easing us all back into the real world in the evening before Monday morning's heralding the return to work.
ABOVE : Plymouth Athenaeum host to 'Cafe Concrete' part of Plymouth's Art Weekender 2017
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.
If you would like to book me to capture your opening night or other art events, you can contact me HERE
You can find more Plymouth Art Weekender photographs in the facebook gallery here
You also can find an unabridged and more comprehensive review of the PAW 2017 here