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Review: Blott Summer Exhibition

There is an awful lot of art happening in Blackpool. From Supercollider‘s jaunts into the more cerebral to the FYC with its mix of eclectic programming and The Grundy‘s shows that bring larger scale contemporary works to the town, it is sometimes easy to forget that there are a clutch of smaller galleries in the area. Blott is an example of that.

Blott Studios, on Blackpool’s King Street, may be shadowed physically by the bulk of the slowly diminishing Syndicate nightclub beside it, but its artistic aims and practices are far from being eclipsed. For over fifteen years, Blott’s evolving roster of artists have been creating and showing work of the highest standard in a sweeping arc of different media. Blott’s annual exhibition has a great mix of painting, photography and sculpture this year to entice you in.

A Blott preview show is always a busy one, and getting in early is a must if you want to grab the canapés. Due to a slow bus I only just managed to slide in on Saturday evening and help myself to handful and a glass of wine. It was a busy one and the crush of people made it a little hard to see the work on show, so a decision to lurk by the wine table and wait until the numbers thinned out was taken, purely for the reasons of seeing the art of course, nothing to do with the excellent summer fruit punch you understand.

A little while later I set off around Blott’s formal white gallery setting to explore the work on show. With over forty new works on offer there was a lot to see. Despite the larger than usual number of works for a show of this nature, the gallery isn’t overpowered and doesn’t feel cluttered or fussy which could have been an issue. A brief run through of the artists and works follows, but it is only really by visiting the gallery you can grasp how well the show works in the space.

The six artists showing in the exhibitions are:

Laura Havenhand. Laura’s work explores gender issues in a frank and open way.  Her last body of work looked at the male Adonis within a domestic setting.  Her new paintings are a pair of visually strong and direct, almost confrontational, works. The paintings of women as more than just objects are clean and focused, challenging both accepted beauty aesthetics and women’s roles in society.

Corrine Streetly. Gallery owner Corrine’s two paintings are a haunting glimpse of mythological figures in idyllic settings enjoying the bounty of the grape. Her ceramic works on show are gestural while retaining the obvious levels of skill that is quietly confident. The ceramic bust of husband Steve is so lifelike that I had to check he was also in the room just in case there was a House of Wax style horror story in action. Having had a ‘potter’ (sorry too good to miss) in clay myself I can see these works by Corrine speak of a natural ease with the material that can’t be learned from any book.

Mark Peatfield. The dozen or so paintings by Peatfield vary from imagined industrial landscapes to constructions of shape and colour. Restrained colour palate choices are combined with dream-like machine forms. The landscapes worked best for me as the machine works need a little more of the artist’s voice to make them less Max Ernst and more Mark Peatfield. The back gallery room of Blott was nicely themed with his work though and it’s a well balanced experience.

Jill Reidy. Altblackpool’s own camerasmith, Jill Reidy, is represented with a collection of black and white photographic prints that have both the stark quality of the medium with a well judged eye for subject. Blackpool looks sheer with shadow form creating clean line architectural shapes. Lovely stuff.

David Butterworth. A bold and sensitive landscape painting that gives around a tenth of its huge canvas to the actual landscape and the lions share to a smouldering cloudscape that looks simultaneously passive but full of storm laden potential.

Keith Murdoch. Flower painting has its many detractors these days for being old fashioned or a too formalised discipline, but these ten small paintings are a gestural riot of colour and fair force the eye into their depths; quite fragile, intimate and vitalised with stabs of colour.

The 2014 Blott exhibition is a quietly confident success, both in the wide variety of work on offer and in the number of people who came to see them. A warm and relaxed atmosphere was in evidence throughout the preview and the gallery was given a fresh feel with the new work on show. Blott is a commercial gallery that manages to avoid the everyday and more obvious.  This is due to the high level of the work coupled with a strong visual ethic steered by Corinne Streetly working with the artist members.

Blott should certainly be on your art trail if you are heading into Blackpool and want something that is less spray painted or conceptually intense.

Blott 2014 Annual Exhibition runs 2 to 21 June at 53 King Street, Blackpool, FY1, 3EJ.  Tel. 01253 620000  or visit the website for further information.

Images courtesy of Jill Reidy.

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