Review: Spring Collection at Barista

It was a fairly nice Spring evening for Barista to open its show of student art work: Spring Collection. People sat outside drinking coffee and eating the kind of cake my waistline would shake its finger at as I entered the town centre independent coffee house.

It’s a narrow place, but the fight against the many people sitting or wandering through wasn’t too bad and the artwork on display is fairly easy to see. Often a problem in cafe shows, there was the feeling of intruding on the people who had simply come in to have a drink and enjoy their cakes in peace without someone gawping over their shoulders. The walls are busy with work, a mix of paintings and photography cover every surface. Larger work is on display as well, not something you see too often in a cafe show.

Often, the problem with student shows, and one which can work to the detriment of both the venue and the students involved, is that the work is related to the course the students are studying. This can create an uneven mix of styles, processes and subjects. It’s a lack of holistic programming that often jars the viewer. Also, the fact that student work is still finding its voice, that the works are not fully resolved both in execution and concept, can be a point that the student might not realise can work against them when leaving the world of academia: “Oh you’re the guy who did the squirmy blue stuff pictures,” can come back to haunt them when the refinement of study has honed their craft and practice to a leaner and more vital expression.

Thankfully for many of the artists in waiting, Spring Collection has work that won’t come back to shake its head at them. Although a little erratic rather than eclectic, the work is of a very high standard. Painting seems to be back in vogue again (hurrah!) and a quite gestural approach is evident throughout. This ties the show together where the disparate subject matter might have created too much dissonance.

In brief, the artists and their work are as follows, working around the venue and in no particular order:

Hannah Nickson: The architectural precision of her building drawing contrasts well against the rough materials of torn cardboard. The spray stencilling of flowers seems one element too many for my taste as the simplicity of her drawing is the real strength for me.

Hannah Constance: Big bold and with an innate feel for colour and depth, Hannah’s horse paintings are lovely to see.  It’s no surprise that ‘sold’ stickers are to be found on them.

Rhiannon Harley: A cluster of delicate but still robust butterflies and skulls are Rhiannon’s contribution to the show.  And very nice they are too; subtle colouring and bold ink-like mark making.  Just my cup of tea.

Susan Frye: Gestural and textured, Susan’s work speaks of paint and its inherent properties of obliteration and pure process.

Rhianna Borsley: Colour and tone build the frameworks for Rhianna’s quite haunting portraits. Faces look out from the walls amidst a seething wash of the (very nicely) framed paintings.  The most arresting works of the show for me.

Karen Bentham: A mass of writhing bodies in a lurid yet oddly still restrained palette of colours are in my mind the most proficient works in the show. Cohesive and tight, I look forward to the college end of year show to see more of her work.

Dawn Mander: Altblackpool’s very own snapper extraordinaire has a wall to herself which, as the only photographer in the show, is important. To have mixed the photos in with the painting would have been a discordant mistake. The photos are beautiful; moments frozen in time that are a pleasure to look at.  My favourite has to be the iPod bedecked Gazette salesman in his jaunty angled booth.

So there you have it.   A pleasant mix of works in a rather nice commercial venue. Now that Caffe Dolce is no longer having art on show, perhaps Barista will be the place to go for smaller scale shows that support the local artist? Fingers crossed as Spring Collection shows that it can be done in the venue to great effect.

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  • Show Comments (2)

  • Ron Taylor

    Seems strange to write an Arts Review and then not have any images of the art work which is being reviewed.

    • admin

      Hi Ron, we do try to get images which can be used in our articles but as all of our contributors (both photographers and writers) are volunteers this isn’t always possible. Plus it also gives you a good reason to head down and see it in person 😉

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