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Review: a duo of exhibitions at the Grundy Art Gallery

There’s still time to view Tony Heaton’s Altered, running until 24 September. While you’re there take a look at Collection Spotlight by Heather Phillipson.
TONY HEATON: ALTERED – to 24th September 2022

Altered is a major solo exhibition by British sculptor and disability rights activist, Tony Heaton OBE. The exhibition explores Heatonโ€™s sculptural practice from his early disability rights activism and his initiation of the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA), to more recent work that includes direct stone carving and neon text pieces. Altered is presented in partnership with Bury Art Museum and Sculpture Centre.

“I am almost always reminded that I am perceived as a disabled person, and much of my work explores my personal analysis of these everyday interactions,” Heaton states, and entering the gallery one is struck by the beauty and intensity of these pieces. There is a theme of figures supporting each other and of strong form (main image). A stack of collecting boxes stems from a performance piece that the artist gave.The background shows the neon piece ‘Tragic, Brave’.

A simple block of stone carries a message from the Beveridge Report, a foundation of the welfare state. The five giants to be slain: want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

At first glance I missed that the piece Great Britain from a Wheelchair (1994) is actually hanging pieces of actual wheelchair; looking square on, I’d seen a painting. The shadows should rather give it away.

The neon pieces ‘Tragic, Brave’ and ‘Raspberry Ripple’ play on the condescension and outright abuse that disabled people can suffer, particularly the offensive rhyming slang of the latter.

Materials are varied and include fragile marble and bronze, set off by utilitarian trollies and wooden plinths. There are also wall pieces, featuring well composed pictures of derelict bicycles and conservator gloves spelling out in British Sign Language.

There is a great deal of craftsmanship here; one of the marbles is carved so thin that the light comes through it. The pieces’ composition and balance is excellent; all hang together to great effect.

The exhibition is open until 24th September 2022 and I would urge a visit. A special print and catalogue is available to buy.

COLLECTION SPOTLIGHT: HEATHER PHILLIPSON – to 31st July 2022

This small Collection Spotlight presentation brings together two key recent acquisitions to the Grundy Collection by the British artist Heather Phillipson (b.1978).

Phillipsonโ€™s hypnotic and seductive videos are simultaneously familiar and disjunctive. The video on display, A Is to D What E Is to H (2011) takes in Modernist architecture, boredom, sightseeing, French kissing and cuisine. Watching it is an immersive and abstract experience, the quality being in the excellent editing, use of visual effects and the poetic, mesmeric voiceover.

The inclusion of the piece ‘In advance of the broken tooth’ (2013) complements the video installation. The piece is formed of timber, cardboard box, artificial grass, artificial bananas, brooms, a garden fork, an aluminium sign, corrugated plastic and gloss paint. It didn’t make me peckish, but others may differ.

The artist is also a musician and poet. She describes her works as “quantum thought experiments” and the work on view here is restlessly experimental. In her wider work she uses a plethora of different media to create vast walk-in collages, multi-screen video installations, and online and audio works that propose watching and listening as ways of becoming alien.

As with the Tony Heaton show, it is well worth a visit to the Grundy to see Phillipson’s these pieces while they are on display โ€“ until 31st July 2022 at the Grundy Art Gallery, Queen Street, Blackpool.

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    I have worked in the housing and transport professions for several local authorities, specialising in policy, strategy preparation and bid writing. Having always had an interest in film, the visual arts in general, theatre, music and lterature, I thought it would be good to combine the writing experience with these interests to contribute to altBlackpool. In addition to writing, my hobbies include watercolour and pastel painting, photography, woodwork, cycling and vegetable gardening.

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