Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reassemble for Purpose - contemporary art at Platform Arts

A couple of weeks ago it was contemporary dance; today at lunchtime it turned out to be contemporary art. It could be some time before I develop an expert appreciation about either of these artforms!

Above the Poundstretcher at the end of Belfast’s Queen Street, Platform Arts hosts studio space for member artists. Up on the top storey, four artists are exhibiting across the 3000 square foot floor.

Their theme is Reassemble for Purpose, engaging with ideas of reconstruction and the potential of transformation with each artist taking a very different approach within their individual disciplines.

Visitors to the gallery walk through Clodagh Lavelle’s tent-like corridor on the way into the main exhibition space.

Reminiscent of a set for a late 1970s/early 1980s science fiction drama, the yellow fabric catches the side of your body as you enter before opening out a less claustrophobic and more airy mesh of fabric and string, giving views of the other artists’ work.

Rachael Campbell-Palmer is obviously in to her concrete and has taken a mold of the top of a column and created new concrete casts which sit abstractly on the floor, several metres lower than the original, and upside down!

A graduate of QUB’s Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC), Helena Hamilton has lit the far wall of the gallery with fluorescent tubes. However once you’ve walked across to inspect the visual bait, you’ll discover the work’s audio trap.

Long-time readers of this blog will remember Budgie Butlins, a previous work by Catherine Roberts back in September 2010. The window of Paragon Studios Project Space (PS2/PS Squared) gallery allowed passers-by to gaze into an artificial bird-safe caravan park with its model landscape filled with holidaying budgies.

In Captive Landscapes, Catherine has recreated an animal enclosure (without any live animals this time) showing off how “grim” they can be, stuffed full of human elements: a plastic barrel, a tyre hanging from a rope, a bucket of slop, part of a chain-sawed tree and a wire fence. Even the carrot is unnaturally sliced with a knife. The artist describes it as the “disconnection between the audience and the animal meant to live here”.

Walking around the exhibition alone my initial reaction was one of bafflement. What did this all mean? Why was this art? Where was the monkey (or whatever animal was supposed to be in the enclosure)? How did any of this make the world better?

Catherine’s explanation helped make sense of some of it. Though truth be told, what I like to think of as my rational, scientific inner self clearly fails to fully ‘get’ the inspiration and purpose of some artistic expression. But that shouldn’t necessarily lessen its value to others who may instead be wondering why there’s any need for a NI Science Festival!

The Reassemble For Purpose exhibition runs until 28 February and Platform Arts is open Wednesday-Friday between noon and 6pm and Saturday 11am – 4pm. If the door bell doesn’t summon someone down to let you in, give them a ring on the more reliable phone (028) 9031 1301.

All photos mine except Helena Hamilton's of her light+sound work.

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