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The Grundy continues its streak of hosting world-class and prestigious art exhibitions, this time showcasing 55 early career artists. David Simper went for a look around the Bloomberg New Contemporaries.


My two-weekly trip to the supermarket had prevented me attending this show’s opening, but 7th October 2023 saw me on the service 4 bus (after a hair cut) to the town centre to catch this excellent display. After having a coffee and chatting to HIVEArts friends in the Church Street cafe, I wandered over to the Grundy Art Gallery to view this exhibition.

This is the first time this exhibition has travelled to Blackpool. Since 1949, New Contemporaries has presented an annual survey exhibition of emerging and early career artists from UK art schools and alternative peer-to-peer learning programmes. This year’s exhibition includes 55 artists selected through an open call by internationally renowned artists Helen Cammock, Sunil Gupta and Heather Phillipson. There was a video loop of these people talking about the selection process, which was interesting and humanised the judges.

The work reflected the artists’ interests including: world building and remembered or imaginary spaces; care, kinship and inter-connectedness; choreography and collectivity; and environmentalism, geographies and borders, and the show is organised along these lines. The exhibition travels from Blackpool to Camden Arts Centre where it will be on display from 19th January 2024 to 31st March 2024.

The exhibition features very many large pieces, some close to as tall as the gallery. Conversely there were many TV screens to show the video pieces. I’m afraid I don’t get on too well with the latter and ended up giving some of them a cursory glance. Most had headphones for the sound, but one was on speaker and was really quite irritating in a hard to describe way. It might be saying something important, but I don’t know what it was.

An exception was a short film about the Lockerbie disaster plane bombing, which I remember happening so well. I also knew someone from Lockerbie and she had ‘locals only’ info. A group I attend for work used to meet in the town and I always felt it was a bit spooky. The most touching moment was a recount of finding one of the stewardesses’ jackets, which still smelt of her perfume.

At the other end of the scale were tiny carvings made in reclaimed chalk, which I’m afraid I couldn’t photograph.

On walking into the gallery, one is confronted by a very large and striking piece, a painting of mythical creaures that is predominantly in greens (above).

This exhibition is evidence that painting is not dead and there are pieces of very high quality. Some artists seem determined not to nip to a main supplier and pick up some nice standard materials there. The urge to be different involves making one piece in ‘handmade pigments made from London waste, earth pigments, binder and chalk pastel on artist-made board’ (above left). ‘London waste’ is not defined and I’m not sure I want to know. There is just buying a box of pastels. Another piece is formed in ‘oil and acrylic on de-acified newspaper on linen’ (below). I hope the effect was worth it.

Plenty of other pieces were in oil, acrylic, charcoal, oil pastel and other standard materials. As I consider oil pastel an underestimated material, I was pleased to see it in use here.

The graphic power of some of these works is most impressive and show a great technical abilty in all cases. As intended, the dolls hanging by their necks are deeply creepy (above). On approaching the techno-waste piece, I realised that one of its cameras was live, which is why I can be seen in a TV screen taking its picture (below).

With 55 artists represented it takes a while to get round and would take a very long time if one sat through all the video works. It’s really worth just standing and taking in these pieces. There is an ‘artists’ talk and walk’ with artists Jil Mandeng and Joshua Woolford on 9th December 2023, 14:00-15:30. I think I will have to try and get down for that.

Having dutifully dropped my coins in the collection box, I hurried off to catch the service 4 bus back home (it was a service 4 day). A fine collection that’s well worth a view. Even better if you like video art more than I do.

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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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