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13 March 2011

'Out with the hammers' in Exeter!

'Out with the hammers' is the recent solo exhibition from Edwina Ashton and has been comissioned by Animated Exeter and Exeter Pheonix (where it is also on show unitl the 20th March). When I saw the title of this exhibition, 'Out with the hammers', could you blame me for getting quite excited and as a result heading on the train to Exeter Pheonix to check it out. Afterall, it had 'hammers' in the title, so it had to be good, right? So this Wednesday myself and a friend disembarked on a train from Taunton to find out.

Ashton's work in this exhibition includes a series of videos, animations, drawings and a few mixed media sculptures. The first room of which we entered being a moss green painted room with the crude and niave bird-like sculptures in. The sculptures had been made from bits of plastic/bottles/junk/tape and sat on perches around the room whilst on the walls were delicate little drawings (of the kind of style you can see here). I've always thought drawings on walls are quite interesting, especailly as you know they cannot be bought or taken away which makes them temporary. This temporary-ness can make any drawing more interesting as you know its not going to be there forever, so for some reason no matter how good or bad the drawing it makes you want to look at it longer. Anyway, these creatures in this space, I read from the blurb on the wall are supossedly gathered around a rockpool. The text and drawings inspired from 19th century natualist, Philip Henry Gosse who studied marine life in Devon's rockpools. "Ah, ha!" I find myself saying, "now its beginning to make sense." There is something sensitive and intriguing about the little drawings on the walls that does almost whisper to the viewer, to come closer and investigate. You can begin to understand that this is similar to investgating rockpools themselves, often rockpools at firstappear empty and it is only after further and closer inspection that we begin to see the tiny and often unusual looking forms of life living within them. The fragility and delicateness of the exhibtion space possibly (it doesn't say) also echoes the fragility of these tiny ecosystems and habitats.

The video next door featuring shrimp and other creatures is not without humour in the way it is quite child-like in its visual style but watches like a very knowledgable scientific documentary (admitedly I didn't watch the whole thing through, due to a noisy group of children and the fact we really needed a drink round about the time we got here!). After the weridly isolated experince of seeing the plastic constructed ganets and 'elephant looking' figures drawn on the walls in the previous room, where everything was still and silent; the animation next door was much more of an immersive experience and demanded more attention than I gave it. Such is the way of viewing exhibitions sometimes.

There were even more werid videos in the other rooms of the Pheonix which I won't go into now, in order to keep this blog from becoming an essay. However I will say that on viewing the whole show I didn't think I was 'blown away' by any of it at the time, but funnily enough after writing this and having to put down my thoughts in words, I actually now think it wasn't so bad after all. In fact, for the reasons and things I talked about around the drawings on the walls and the way the project was linked with the kind of biological sciences/natural history I am liking it all a lot more. Its been interesting in seeing how this artist, Edwina Ashton has used that research to create her work. Most contemporary art requires an active audience so whilst this exhibition may have required more thinking than others, I think it was worth it.

The only question that remains is that, 'what do hammers have to do with it?'

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