Review: Among Dark Trees, A Clearing.

jayLet’s start at the end, a la Martin Amis. Go and see this exhibition, it will make you think about big questions. Isn’t that what art should do? If you’d like more than this endorsement I’d like you to read on and I’ll give you an idea of what you can expect. Otherwise, just go – you won’t be disappointed.

As the guide to the ehibition says, it’s an “exploration of…suffering, loss and hope.” In the compass of our small but perfectly formed Grundy, these issues are explored through video, drawing, sound responsive lights and other material created by children and adults from around Blackpool and the Fylde. These materials in total range from the documentary to the confessional by way of personal discovery.

The gallery space is divided up (quite literally, by heavy curtaining) and can be traversed in a variety of ways. As the artist, Kai-Oi Jay Yung, told me, she didn’t want to give a directional narrative in the way the materials were displayed. This means you can make several visits and by travelling different routes find different things and meanings.

In the first space are the items contributed by the community mentioned above. The children’s drawing of vivid memories can be added to by visitors as the exhibition continues.  Adults contributed by embroidering homilies or sayings, trying to encapsulate deep feelings. My favourite, embroidered piece, reads: ‘the best things in life aren’t things’.amongst dark tree

In the same space, video and aural presentation look at how an individual coped with a particular manifestation of mental health problems with the aid of pyschotherapy. One of the displays is inspired by a partcular treatment he undertook using lights. I was prompted to wonder where treatment stops and art begins and the issues surrounding art therapy. I told you this exhibition raises big questions…

Let’s go in the second room. Here, art works included drawings and it is another place the visitor can join in: confess what bothers you in a curtained off area and affect how a set of lights is displayed. The pattern of lights mimics that of the ‘treatment’ lights already seen. Are you self medicating?

In the two other spaces there are video and aural displays again.  Another way of dealing with mindfulness and suffering – meditation – is explored. Materials supplied by the community sit alongside images of a meditator, offering the chance to use breathing as a way in to the relaxation techniques for the gallery attendee. I found the ways of coping with the mental universe here and that of the pyschotherapy approach earlier a contrast between Eastern and Western attitudes. See what you think.

In the final space there is a video of a stand-up comedian showing how his work confronts the viewer’s optimism.

This is not a complete list of the exhibits.  Nor does it cover all the ways of taking part. What’s there in total is highly thought provoking. It also includes a take-away essay / interview by the artist giving an even deeper interpretation of the exhibition’s many themes.

This exhibition was first mooted some four years ago. While the artist could not do it then I’m glad the Grundy have returned to it. These are works specially created for Blackpool and involving local residents and hopefully yourselves. There are many ways to get involved including artist talks; see the Grundy website for dates.

So, as it was in the beginning… Just go. You won’t be disappointed.

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