As a schoolteacher, the word “slime” strikes anguish into my very core. It conjures up fidgety students equipped with foul-smelling plastic tubs, kneading the viscous contents under the pretence that it helps them focus – that is if it doesn’t end up smeared in a vile mess all over the carpet. For Blackpool artist Adrian Pritchard, however, it is just one medium through which he explores the creative potential and physical limitations of gravity, and, through his participatory exhibits, challenges the parameters of what an artist actually is.
Pritchard’s current solo exhibition at Blackpool’s Grundy gallery, a collection called Terraforma, is essentially composed of circles of resin in which paint has been swirled to create planet-like forms. When I saw Pritchard in conversation with the Grundy’s curator Paulette Terry Brien on the 24th of February, his passion for science, and in particular new celestial discoveries, was contagious.
Pritchard describes himself as an “artist and educator”, and much of his practice squeezes itself into the tiny bit of the Venn diagram connecting science and art. This exhibition is unashamed to show imagined planets alongside depictions of real ones; perhaps this is a twist on the fantastical elements of the scientific process of “terraforming” (hence the exhibition’s title), where physicists or science writers hypothetically modify conditions of planets or moons to make them habitable by humans. Pritchard seems fascinated by the chance elements of physics but also of art. His works are created by moving, pouring or dripping paint – he rarely uses brushes. In some ways, the unlikeliness of the specific formations recalls the unlikeliness of the existence of a planet being humanly habitable at all.
The slime isn’t itself part of this exhibition, but has been used by Pritchard in the past to create participatory and kinetic works such as his “gloop chamber”; basically an assembled frame holding a net, from which strings of semi-solid slime slowly fall and coil on the ground beneath. In this way, Pritchard becomes a facilitator, rather than an artist. I think the kids I teach would love this – children are endlessly fascinated by anything gloopy and gummy. Though Terraforma is more of a “finished product”, each of its component artworks are made interesting by their improbability. Though in all probability you’ll enjoy them.
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