Elbows at Dawn Exhibition Review

Matt Wilkinson - Nec Spe Nec Metu

Last night, M.I.L.K (an artist led collective based in Newcastle) opened their two-person exhibition at Abingdon Studio in Blackpool. I went down to view the newest in a long line of strong shows that have been facilitated in this space and to have a chat with the artists Matt Antoniak and Matt Wilkinson.

The evening was very relaxed, both artists spent their time talking to visitors about the exhibition and enjoying the event. Their friendly demeanour and eagerness to share creative process provided a heightened understanding and appreciation of the work on show.

Walking into the project space the exhibition map guides you in a clockwise direction. However, I would be surprised if an audience follows this instruction as your gaze is immediately directed to a large collaborative multi-media piece on the far side of the gallery. I like most, gravitated towards this to investigate further.

In the background we see what I believed at first to be a rather confronting image of post-production abstraction of the nude form. With closer inspection I realised that this is a carefully executed photograph by Wilkinson. The image is of the landscape of the upper torso of a man who is reaching out in a spiritual movement of what could be read as intense pray or supplication. This disarming image is then made even more perplexing by the overlay of two works by Antoniak. The first of which is a cartoon portrait of a female and the other, a slab of plasticine carved with childlike drawings creating the foreground of the overall piece.

After intense questioning, I still could not gleam from the pair the correlation between Wilkinson’s photograph and Antoniak’s paintings or even how I should interpret the placement of these image.

The artist’s work separately and are aware of the others practice, playfully claim that this piece just came together. Which is not only frustrating but ingenious as I spent much of my time pondering over it. The other works presented are individual pieces by both artists around a common interest into overlooked objects and situations within daily life.

The work is mystifying and haunting and maybe the thing that will draw you back for a second visit to the exhibition.

Wilkinson’s photography and the film (mounted in the ceiling) are striking and Antoniak’s paintings that will leave you with a smile. Antoniak’s paintings elevate the careless doodles of the outside artist to contemporary status.

You cannot help but appreciate the skill and care taken to transfer these appropriated doodles, found mostly in art shops, into refined works.

Both artists cast a critical, yet gentle gaze over the mundane and breathe new life into what is often over looked or missed in the monotony of the everyday. It is a quiet rebellion that is presented with such care at this exhibition that makes remarkable art like this relatable to all audiences.  I recommend not one but serval visits.

Images courtesy of Matthew Wilkinson.

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