Cycling away from Paradise Works in Manchester, having visited Furnished Archipelago, I felt intrigued by the exhibition itself and the discussion I had with curator, artist, and occasional furniture maker, James Ackerley. The exhibition, curated by Ackerley, features the work of Rowan Eastwood, Jack Ginno, Sam Potter and Alistair Woods. Collectively these artists make up Depot Art Studios, another Manchester-based initiative.
The works in the exhibition are interspersed by ‘uncomfortable furniture’ that Ackerley has created; sculptural objects mediating the experience of the works, encouraging questions and conversation. In an age of fanatical Instagram scrolling, art can be created on the understanding that it will be momentarily acknowledged and swiftly forgotten. Therefore, to linger and critically engage with an artwork might expose the uncomfortable truth, that the more you look the less there is to see. Furnished Archipelago challenges this notion because the works included require time and thought, and the furniture facilitates this. It sets up the conditions for us to explore our own ideas about authorship and our role as an audience, the show “is about works that are lost in the act of scrolling”.
There is a strong aesthetic link between the works in the show, with three of the four artists displaying paintings on found surfaces. These minimal works feature subtle marks where authorship is ambiguous and the intentional is blurred with the accidental. Potter’s ‘Untitled (Landscape)’ and ‘Untitled (Scribble)’ exemplify this. The latter providing a reminder of what an artistic gesture looks like that can be used as a tool to explore the myriad of scuffs and scratches throughout the exhibition. Woods also uses small catalysts to help us ground his paintings in the everyday, giving them the impression of things that are found and not made. He does so with the use of everyday objects such as a clothing security tag in ‘Houses for Sale’ or a betting slip in ‘Weekends Spent Outside The Bookies’.
Initially out of place amongst the monochrome tones of the rest of the exhibition, Eastwood’s ‘This Is Bliss’ influences our experience of the space and intensifies our encounter with the other works. It channels our attention in a similar way to Ackerley’s furniture. Splitting the exhibition space in two using a large expanse of yellow textile; it requires the audience to move through, around and behind it in order to explore the exhibition.
Totally obscured by ‘This Is Bliss’ when you enter the exhibition is Ginno’s ‘Untitled (Install)’. Comprising a field of blank canvas bordered with finger prints and smudges it is reminiscent of Bob Law’s work, distilling the role of the artist down to the fundamental act of marking out a space in which art takes place. Stripping away the superfluous to focus our attention on the artist delineating something as art.
Throughout Furnished Archipelago there are marks that move outwards or trace a perimeter, leaving large areas of central space that invite the viewer in. There is a link to Marcel Duchamp’s The Creative Act on Ginno’s website whose statements are a fitting context for the whole exhibition. Duchamp’s art coefficient, a “relation between the unexpressed but intended and the unintentionally expressed” encapsulates the questions posed by the Depot artists, and his statement that “the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world…and thus adds his contribution to the creative act” aptly describes what is being asked of the spectator.
James Mathews-Hiskett is an artist and writer based in Manchester.
Furnished Archipelago, Paradise Works, Manchester.
18 – 26 August 2018.
*all works 2018 unless stated.