A Minor Place

torn tower, Andrew Smith
Torn Tower, Andrew Smith

‘A Minor Place’ by artists Hugh Marwood, Shaun Morris and Andrew Smith starts Saturday 3rd September through to Sunday 11th September 2016.

PV evening is Saturday 3rd Sept 6.30pm – 8.30pm

This exhibition at Artistsworkhouse presents work by three Midlands based artists: Leicester based Hugh Marwood, and Birmingham’s Shaun Morris and Andrew Smith. Working across a range of practices including drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, text and video the exhibition, in its broadest terms, presents as its overarching theme different imaginative responses to the urban environment.

The work on display is striking in its diversity but shares an interest across the exhibition in the ‘minor places’ of the urban world: the lost voices and forgotten messages; the haunted spaces and interim states; in fragmented texts and uncoupled phrases; the encrypted clues and overlooked evidence; erasures and amendments; erosion and decay.

In Hugh Marwood’s heavily collaged paintings references abound to routes, surfaces, edifices; and particularly the written texts found in those places.  However, the work is equally about the trains of thought and feeling they trigger, and generally tends towards nominally abstract distillations – rather than to recognisable depictions.

His current thematic preoccupations are with ideas of absence, disappearance and erasure.  Increasingly, the visual triggers to which he is drawn, suggest vacant spaces, degraded materials, and deleted or fragmented messages.  The resulting work thus focuses on fragments and vestiges, – on vanished meanings, lost voices, and what barely remains.  It is a catalogue of ghosts and memories.

Many of Marwood’s themes play out through the medium of paint, (or a kind of hybrid, collage-heavy, form of painting).  However, increasingly, other media comes into play – including photography, printmaking, and, on occasion, video and written pieces.  The aim is to arrive at a situation where imagery and ideas can evolve and mutate from each other, and switch between different media, in a fluid and almost limitless manner.

In artist Andrew Smith’s work the idea is to use ‘the urban environment’, ideas and texts about it, features of it in physical or image form, as material, or as floating signifiers that can be reinscribed or reconfigured in different aesthetic and ideational contexts: one example, with regard to the latter, might be, broadly speaking, the psychogeographical, in the sense of features of the urban landscape being made readable as indices of the psychological.

Andrew’s paintings and prints also involve chance meetings.  With some of the paintings – reading the map one way – you might trace a short journey from object to photograph to painting.  Following this route leads to minor territories on the edges of the iconic and the indexical – the latter through some references to blurs and shallow focus.  Having arrived in these territories what follows might be a process of recognizing signs (or not), and perhaps circling memorials of an accident.

The prints present removals from various locations.  For example, ordinary objects, left on the street, having already suffered the body-blow of being discarded, float bodilessly, illustrations of their former selves – they respond to their transformation and relocation with either (futile) anger or placidity.

Shaun Morris’s paintings and prints represent the artist’s interest in exploring the nocturnal edgelands and hidden landscape underneath the motorways that pass over the Black Country and Birmingham. As well as depicting some unusual abstract and dislocated images and sensations based on the reflections in the canals, other scenes focus in on the many transit hubs and depots that back onto the canals or are dotted alongside the motorway and their population of parked lorries and other, often strange looking, vehicles.

There is a doomed romantic quality in many of these large paintings of truck or lorries, yet there is also something vaguely unsettling and menacing in these black windowed, still cabs at night.  The artist explains his interest in the idea of them looked nostalgic on one hand and futuristic on the other: parked, seemingly abandoned, at the side of the road, highway or canal in a post-oil world.

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