20 Dec 2010 in Highland, Showcase, Visual Arts & Crafts

Event #1 …an Art Happening, 19 Church Street, Inverness, 10 – 17 December 2010

BILLED as “a week and a day of alternative creativity” in “Art, Craft, Film, Light and Music”, Event #1 at IG:LU heralds the start of an exciting new creative venue in the heart of the city. Initiated by Graeme Hanks and Rita Farragher, IG:LU is an art space long overdue in an area home to a varied and dynamic range of contemporary Arts practitioners, but lacking a regular platform for public exposure to their work.

IG:LU is a real lightning strike and it is fantastic to see the work of local artists finally being represented in all their diversity in a central and evolving space. Equally important in the city’s cultural landscape is the need for a meeting point for exchange between artists of different disciplines and the opportunity for emerging artists, designers and other creatives to show work alongside their peers, placing that work within a wider context.

Glowing images by Do-Glo Designs from the IG:LU exhibition

Glowing images by Do-Glo Designs from the IG:LU exhibition

The vision of the venue as a fluid, responsive space was certainly in evidence in the opening exhibition and as the host of four evening happenings with music from Teenage Lobotomies, the L.E.D. and Polymath and a closing night event with Le Parade Noir. The welcoming feel of the space, accessible exhibition opening hours between 12.00 and 8pm and a selection of work that transformed the everyday into the unexpected, provided scope for contemplation and presented an alternative view of the region’s creative community; vibrant, uniquely situated and in touch with the world, was instantly refreshing.

This sense of energy and enterprise was palpable in the work of participating artists; Do-Glo Designs, Heidi Soos, Tomassi, Ladyface, Gordon Brown, Graeme Roger and Kevin Reid, TillyHoney, Nigel Sandeman, Mike Dunn, and Mark Creaney, ranging from painting, digital printmaking, graphic and graffiti art, bespoke clothing, jewellery and body adornment, video, Instagram photography and electroluminescent costumes and installation. Whilst there could have been room for more extensive showcasing and presentation, particularly of the fashion and adornment sections of the show, the exhibition justly celebrated individual creativity whetting the appetite for future exhibitions and events under the IG:LU banner.

Christopher Howell’s collection of 72 Instagram images were a highlight of the show and represent the world’s first instagram exhibition (November 2010). Arranged asymmetrically in an inverted triangle in a corner of the main space these photographic images, created using an iPhone app, engage with the latest technology whilst displaying an understanding of the craft of photography and image making comparatively rare in a democratic age of gadgetry.

Chris Howell's Instagram images

Chris Howell's Instagram images

Often shared images created as part of networking sites are of little universal interest, relying more on accident for a good composition than any vision in the mind’s eye. What Howell displays here in the presentation of this whole sequence of images is a great eye for balance; of composition, colour, light and shadow. Within this collection each individual image begs closer inspection with the heightened manipulation of colour contributing to the surreal, ethereal quality of each image. Having mourned the demise of the polaroid it was a delight to see the combination of grainy softness and vivid colour, transforming natural light into neon intensity, making a world of everyday objects, landscapes and intimate details such as skin, baby’s feet or hand held composites made extraordinary, meditative and rather beautiful.

The art of photography and human memory are inexplicably entwined and in a world of disposable images, often stored in computers or handsets but seldom actually seen, it was wonderful to feel compelled to spend time absorbing every shot and exploring the imaginative possibilities of the sequence as a whole. The iPhone app enables the user to enhance the image using different effects beyond the instant snapshot. It seems that Howell has embraced this process in a considered fashion; certainly in terms of how he has chosen to exhibit the work, inspiring an intimate human connection to be made directly with the instagram images in the exhibition space. As a vehicle for social, cultural and creative networking the suggestion of an international exhibition of instagram photography at IG:LU is a very exciting prospect, potentially repositioning local work in a global context and inviting the world to IG:LU, Inverness.

Dress by Heidi Soos

Dress by Heidi Soos

Clothing and jewellery made from reclaimed and vintage materials by Heidi Soos has great potential in the world of bespoke couture, however greater care needs to be taken in the presentation of her work to ensure that the level of promotion equals the care and attention to detail of craftsmanship. Soos reminds us in her reworking of everyday materials that imagination can transform the mundane and the manufactured into something unique and beautiful. Her plastic food container bangle (3) bound with fine wire and with an overlap of organic forms is an unexpected gem of transformation.

A reclaimed leather and fabric cuff constructed in exquisite interlinked sections, especially in the fastening, feels as though it was made to adorn someone precious. At her best the artist’s attention to detail, sensitivity in handling of materials and layering of different fabrics are distinctive and inspired. This was also exemplified in two garments on display; the first an asymmetrical design in delicate layers of white and cream vintage lace, tulle and broderie anglaise and the second utilising domestic linens and pearl button detailing with a medieval style binding around the hips.

The combination of unexpected materials such as inner tubes, plastics, found objects and aged fabrics together with the exploration of historical periods of design could certainly be developed further and it would be wonderful to see a more complete showing of Soos’s work (and that of Do-Glo Designs) on live models.

The combination of established and emerging artists in this show was extremely encouraging. Exhibiting for the first time, illustrative work by Hollipop showed potential for further honing of technique and stylistic development. The dreamlike and naïve quality of the artist’s images sits somewhere between illustration and comic art, with the human figure strongly derivative of Japanese manga. Hollipop’s penguin-headed figure holding a narwhal is delightfully quirky, giving an indication of a unique voice yet to be fully realised but ripe for development.

Adjacent to this work, Gordon Robin Brown’s unmistakable visual style is a potent juxtaposition in terms of distillation of an artist’s individual visual language. The first of two large scale untitled paintings in a palette of deep purples and lilac with accents of cool green reveals Brown’s captivating and bizarre vision; a defined graphic style of interlocking verticals of trees and horizontal shadows, a processional of hybrid animal and part human figures through a deep forest blurring the line between the imaginative world of childhood and adult fantasy.

Gordon Robin Brown's painting Leaving The Forest (2009)

Leaving The Forest (2009), a painting by Gordon Robin Brown (image © Gordon Robin Brown)

This ambiguity, in the fantastical elongated house-headed figures smoking cigarettes, the hint of danger in green snakes suspended mid-air winding through the trees and genital-headed snails creates a highly stylised vision, with Brown’s own iconography ever present in the vertical totemic accumulation of heads. This motif also makes an appearance in his second work, a wonderfully mysterious snow scape handled in a looser more painterly fashion. Set in an expanse of winter landscape, the high horizon and positioning of figures create a dreamlike ambiguity of scale.

A band of faceless hooded figures in yellow overcoats play on an enlarged snowball overlooked by a frozen skull and aged male head atop a monument of snowballs. Brown’s technique and playful, surreal juxtapositions in both these works are immediately engaging to the imagination. Viewing his work is like falling down the rabbit hole into wonderland.

Emerging artist Mike Dunn’s layered and gestural work utilising collaged newsprint and thick paint spatter capture beautifully the pulse of a city in New York Noise; the strong composition of architecture balanced convincingly with the rhythm of the artist’s paint handling. The robust heat and energy of this work in vivid red, white, orange and blue is tempered by the delicacy of the multi-layered surface treatment, inviting closer scrutiny. The accompanying work Good Feeling, whilst not as strong in terms of composition, successfully evokes a neon core of emotion in a progression of white, yellow and red emanating from an abstracted street sign.

Work by Tomassi in the stairwell

Work by Tomassi in the stairwell

Strong work from Tomassi featured both in the stairwell as spray painted graffiti and in a sequence of black and white meticulously cut stencil work of heroes and villains, plays with positive and negative space and association. The positioning of the figures within each composition was consistently dynamic, contributing to the visual impact of the whole sequence.

Graeme Roger and Kevin Reid’s thought provoking, cathartic and humorous video work made in association with students of the University of Memphis featured a series of interviews with individuals constructing and destroying their own monsters. A critique of iconic figures and villains, the ready made style of filming and makeshift construction of effigies of figures such as Martha Stewart, Gumby, Mr Potato Head, Jason from the Friday the 13th franchise of films and King Willie, the major of Memphis, seemed to empower the individual, yet ironically echo the national and popular cultural pastime of blowing the enemy away. The slowed down soundtrack accompanying the destruction of each figure by projectile heightened the comic element of the work, the amplified sound effect reminiscent of Godzilla- banishing these personal monsters whilst asking of the viewer to consider their own.

IG:LU’s first event was an exciting showcase, engaging directly with local arts practitioners and revealing an alternative vision of creativity and creative industry in the Highlands. It will be interesting to see how the space evolves and its arrival on the local arts scene is both extremely welcome and timely. IG:LU is definitely a space to watch and will hopefully become a regular meeting point between artists of all disciplines, local, national and international audiences.

© Georgina Coburn, 2010