The first six British Art Shows really passed me by (understandable when you take into account that the first two happened before I was born) in fact I hadn't really heard of BAS at all until this year. So, when British Art Show 7 literally came to town there was no way I would be missing it this time round!
Here's the info: "Held every five years across four cities nationwide, British Art Show comes to Plymouth for the first time in the city's history. British Art Show 7: In the days of the comet features work by 39 artists and artists' groups working in the UK today. It is exhibited across five venues -Peninsula Arts : Plymouth University, Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth College of Art Gallery and the Slaughter House: Royal William Yard"
Brilliant! And as I am down in Plymouth at least once a week studying for my MA it has been pretty convenient to go and see all the art on offer which is all mostly in walking distance near each other....except for the Slaughter House (which is walkable but only if you like a thirty minute power walk, for those of you that don't its very easy to get a bus there). Any who, the show as a whole, for me, was one that got better with age. I've made it my mission to go visit the exhibitions in their venues more than once, and have found the second time round I enjoyed it all a lot more. There's a mix of sculpture, installation, video work, photography and painting. I found that the painting side of things to be quite disappointing and won't dwell too long here on the ones I found to be shockingly bad, which is a shame because it doesn't reflect a lot of the interesting painting I see happening elsewhere. Two of the best pieces for me were video works. Elizabeth Price's 'User group disco' (see image below) shown in Plymouth Museum in which extreme close-ups of kitchen utensils and other miscellaneous objects are whirled around to A-Ha's 'Take on me' whilst philosophical text is scrolled across the screen. The work is about archives and taxonomies (even more appropriate when you consider that it is being shown in a museum) and how we classify objects. I could relate a lot of my current thinking and work to this piece and I liked its energy and pace which made it an engaging piece to watch. The second video is one that I think virtually everyone who visits the BAS enjoys is, Christian Marclay's 'The Clock' (see image below), in which a 24 hour series of cut scenes has been edited from films where there is a reference to a specific time so that when edited all together you have an entire video that tells the time: a clock of clocks, watches and time from hundreds of movies. This can only be best explained with an example, so, you go into watch the film at 2.45pm and on the screen is the famous scene from 'Safety Last!' with Harold Lloyd. Time moves on and there is a scene from Raging Bull etc. etc. that mirrors real time. Totally brilliant! I love movies and I could have sat there all day watching to see what films would come up next.
They might have been my favourite two pieces but there is still plenty more to see with work by Sarah Lucas, Wolfgang Tillmans and Roger Hiorns. The list almost reads like a Turner Prize nominees retrospective. It was also worth checking out Karla Black, Mick Peter, Brian Griffiths and Karin Ruggaber who for different reasons also had elements to their work that appealed to me (interestingly they are all sculptors/installation artists).
There you have it. Not that I have any previous years to compare it to, but I can say that the BAS7 is a real marmite mix of a show, there's a lot to love and a lot to hate, but in a way that's what makes it great. What could be more British or more contemporary than so many contradictions: art that makes you mad, art that makes you think, art that makes you feel, art that makes you laugh, art that shouts, art that inspires and art that just bamboozles you!
Glad I didn't miss it this time.
BAS7 at Plymouth College of art
BAS7 at Plymouth Art Centre
BAS7 at Plymouth Art Centre
BAS7 at Plymouth City Museum and Gallery
Mick Peter - 'Moldenke fiddles on' 2008-09
Elizabeth Price - 'User Group Disco' 2009 (still)
Christian Marclay - 'The Clock' 2010 (still)Brian Griffiths - 'The body and ground (or your lovely smile)' 2010
British Art Show 7 is on until December 4th 2011 in Plymouth. For more details visit link below: