Thursday, 27 April 2017

Look Again Festival 2017 at RGU!

Another year has passed since Look Again graced us with their delightful programme of events and exhibitions and now its time to put on your creative goggles and get out to as they say "become a tourist in your own city!" Look Again 2017 brings an ever bigger selection of events and exhibitions, this time stretched across multiple venues and across 2 weekends. The first weekend saw RGU Campus at Garthdee play host to a plethora of events aimed at engaging the student populous and connecting the often remote campus with the wider creative community.

Over a 4 day period students were exposed to the incredible Inflato - Optical Image Intensifier at the Sir Ian Wood building, complete with giant inflatables and wearable sculptures created by Pester & Rossi. The Inflato designs are based on old engineering artefacts and diagrammatic prints discovered in the RGU archive. Along with a short film and exhibition students were invited to take part in a special work shop with the artists, allowing them to engage with the wearable sculptures and inform a special performance which took place later in the evening (see a short video recap below). Pester & Rossi also lead a special march from Grays School of Art all the way through the RGU campus to the SIW building where they treated everyone to a 20 minute performance with students from the art school.

Stephanie Smith and partner Edward Stewart have worked with the extensive Art & Heritage Collection at the uni and selected a group of paintings for a special 'Re-hang' exhibition. Finding a common thread in various nude portraits, the duo set about freeing them from the storage cupboards and set about showcasing these forgotten gems but with a slight twist, they hung them upside down. The reason for this? Smith & Stewart are interested in our perceptions of art and its context, by changing that context they hope to give the viewer a new perspective on the work, the subtle lilt in a hand, the appearance of someone falling from the heavens, a frown becoming an akward smile. The exhibition certainly got the attention of one disgruntled former student who took great offence to his work being removed from a cupboard to be hung up side down.

Photographer Jon Nicolson gave a great lecture about his work and experiences of travelling abroad. Jon also worked with some photography students looking over their portfolios and helping them pick out the best themes and photos but also to weed out work which didn't quite fit. Former Grays student Laura Reilly and Jason Nelson gave a presentation on 'What is Creative Practice?' sharing their own personal experiences building up a creative practice, the power this knowledge holds and how to take it forward after art school. I've always found the creative talks interesting and come away with a refreshed view.

The weekend brought The Doric Suite to RGU where they performed a blend of neo traditional Scottish music with a jazz edge. I assisted with some visuals which people seemed to enjoy, some new age psychedelic Scots jazz anyone? Stack Collective were busy all weekend helping students DIY screen print t shirts, a messy but fun business with many students getting their hands dirty. The inflatables were switched on over the weekend and left for people to engage, I had fun getting my head stuck in one while some small children encouraged me try and make my way through the small tunnel which I obligingly did. It was fun!

In all honesty there's been so much happening over the weekend its impossible to cover it all in one post and with the main festival kicking off today ill be on the ground floating about between the events trying to capture of flavour of whats on so please say hi if you see me.  You have workshops with award winning designer Wayne Hemingway and presentation at The Belmont, the Palm Exhibition opening at The Anatomy Rooms, the Thomson & Craighead launch at the new Peacock Visual Arts space on the Castlegate and then the official launch party with Wayne on the ones and twos at Underdog from 9pm. You can check out the full list of events and activities on the Look Again Festival website and be sure to pick up a catalogue, its jam packed and should make for a fun weekend! Enjoy.  

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

NUART Aberdeen - Part 4, The Small Murals!

The NUART Plus programme kicked off with their famous 'Fight Club' debate which looked at the age old question,  big vs small. A few of the artists along with selected academics and media heads debated the issue highlighting the merits of both and with only 1 vote of a difference its fair to say that both have their place but do give the viewer something different. I've covered all the large scale works here and they are all truly stunning. But the small works have had just as much impact and a few of the artists have used the small scale intervention in a massively meaningful way.

Kicking off with John 'Nipper' his simple clips attached to various sites around the city centre have become miniature bill boards where the usual advertisement fodder has been replaced by free art and some special Mission Directives. One such Mission Directive instructed the finder to take the can of spray paint and stencil attached to the board and make a stencil on the wall next to it. When I first walked past I was amazed to see the stencil almost worn out from use, the wall covered in a spattering of stencilled faces. What's interesting is how Nipper sees these public spaces and how he encourages a different kind of interaction with it. I'm sure some will argue "its vandalism" yet councils and town planners the breadth of the country make poor decisions which we as citizens have to live with in our urban environments, so being given a certain carte blanche is liberating, fun and in all fariness isn't causing any real damage, the grey blocks of buffed out tags on the other hand. Along with the clips John has installed a beautiful selection of paste ups which can be found on Ship Row, next to Brew Dog (Broad Street) and beside Denburn car Park. John's work has definitely had a huge impact on my own views about the city as a play ground and I really hope to be able to keep the dialogue open and continuing the free art with local artists and council art initiatives.

Next up a few of the incredible and badly behaved street cleaners by Jaune! Its been fun to see Jaune carting his massive stencil folder around the city, leaving behind small scale interventions that engage with the environment they were created in. I was lucky enough to witness the creation of a few pieces around the Castlegate area, seeing the time and attention to detail that goes into each piece, sometimes using 6 or 7 stencil layers. People seemed to take great pleasure in finding the Jaunes, scattered far and wide across the city centre with the Sunday Easter Hunt being a huge success. The addition of a few kilted figures and a nod to Aberdeen Football Club "Stand Free" has surely won over a few hearts in our fair city, all the while adding a bit of colour and humour to some overlooked lanes. With so many out there I haven't been able to find them all myself but if you feel like having an adventure I recommend starting at the collab piece with Addfuel up on Langstane place and make you're way down to the Green from there, you're sure to find some nice suprises along the way!

Although technically not small by any stretch of the imagination having created two giant paste ups on the tunnel bridges that join the Indoor Market to the old BHS building, Julien De Casabianca's 'Outings Project' work starts off with the smallest of all portable devices, the smart phone. Using his phones camera Julien captures characters from existing paintings and scales them up to life size and beyond, freeing them from the constraints of gallery collections across the globe! Working with Aberdeen Art Galleries extensive collection Julien selected 2 images for the large paste ups which are both haunting and beautiful in their new home, just off the Green. Along with his large works Julien also created a series of smaller works which can be found on Langstane Place, Ship Row, Queen Street and a few special interventions in Torry. Julien also hosted a work shop and helped pupils from Walker Road primary school select, create and paste up images of their own choosing, in turn helping them to liberate these characters and try their hands at some street art. Julien's whole ethos is one of inclusion and liberation, a beautiful thing to witness and its been fun to discover these characters dotted around the city!

The final artist to grace our fair city is perhaps the one who's work has had the best reaction, Isaac Cordal. As soon as the first gray suited figure appeared people have been searching high and low trying to find them all with old friends getting in touch to see if they get some inside info on where they are, even my brother found himself making 3 trips into town to try and track them down! I've found it interesting to see how everyone interprets these small gray figures, some think they're about to jump while others believe they're looking down on us, perhaps they're politicians or maybe they just got fired from John Lewis. Cordal brought along a few special figures, namely Donald Trump, the beggar and the house head which I believe were set up as short installations but have been taken away for further adventures so you won't find them but can view them on his instagram page. Although his work follows a dark thread I kept catching Isaac smiling and joking with Jaune and a few others. It reminded me that although some of the works have a serious overtone to them there's still space for a bit of fun and also to appreciate a nice piece of public art, whether its a 30 meter mural across a brutalist market building or a little suited skull figure hanging out of an old light fixture.

I think that covers all of the artists and as much of the work that I've managed to find up til this point, I do plan to get out and explore a bit more in the hopes of finding more of Isaacs pieces (22 individual ones and counting) and will hopefully see some friendly faces out there too. And that's been the huge success of NUART Aberdeen beyond the creation of some stunning art works, its the interactions, from us all standing watching these murals being created, chatting to each other, sharing our opinions and locations of new pieces that appeared over night. The city has never felt so connected both with creative art and with each other. I've had old school friends get in touch, spoken to local bin men, chatted to a couple heading for a pint about kilted street cleaners and engaged with people from pretty much all walks of life and its been transformative.

Its been a real honour to have been part of the team, it really has been a huge effort from the very top to the very bottom. I could write a whole post about all the people who have made it such a fun festival to be involved with but it would take a week to write. Instead ill just say Aberdeen has been given a gift by NUART, a chance for us to engage with each other, appreciate art in a new light and to make new friends and for that I'm truly thankful. Ok, Martyn, James, Marisa, Calum,  Simen, Jon, Allana, Kristina, Nazar, Saz, Manon, Mary, Ross, Kate, Devo, Charlie, Genavive, Andy, Steve B, Dave, Martin, Ian, Evan, Mark, Doug, Steve H, Jamie and everyone else, thank you 💕