25 Years, our summer exhibition, was due to open mid-June to celebrate 25 years of the gallery. Over 40 artists were invited to reflect on the notion of time (scientific, philosophical, real or imagined) with site specific artworks to be installed in the Georgian space which has housed the gallery for the last 25 years.
Then time stopped… the gallery closed; the artists were confined; some studios had to close; teaching had to be ‘performed’ online; some felt isolation setting in; others had to multi-task. Many of the artists were left with no time or space to produce new work. A sabbatical for some, harshness for others, a challenging time for all.
However, as with many of us in the art world, we decided to proceed virtually in a space more conform to traditional galleries than the very eccentric surroundings of a Georgian house. We kept the thematic, but all the proposed artworks had to be revisited, re-selected and we had to accept that some will simply not work in this new format.
The works in the show explore time in its different manifestations, our different relationships with its concept. Neville Gabie's work Every day of my life until today 2nd May 2018 expresses how we try to capture time and make it our own. The rhythmic, repetitive markings of the drawing creating an illusion of time’s evenness, oxymoronic in its nature. In Helen Maurer’s film Two Trees Turning, time’s pendulum-like swing is evoked hypnotically, a rhythmic turning of trees creating a semblance of movement in stillness.
Both Heather Ross and Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva explore the symbiotic relationship between nature and time; the passing of Time recorded in nature’s trace, erosion and decomposition. In Gerry Smith’s painting Kings X Clock Yellow, and Paul Ryan’s drawing Slowly Slowly, time is stopped still, reminiscent of W.H. Auden’s 'Funeral Blues'.
Fran Burden's and Richard McVetis’ embroidery works Modern Dance and Particles, respectively, slow down time in the labour of their making, whereas Katherine Fry’s new video work A deal with god, a response to her experience battling COVID-19 in hospital, tracks real time in breath. Fry uses this work to explore illness as an interruption to the lifespan, the portion of time, we are each given. In Paulette Phillips’ work Horizon, the artist explores our changing perceptions of time and movement and their interrelation through a sea lens.
There is an irony in presenting an exhibition on time in a space where time stands still, and space does not exist. Yet the pandemic has brought time to the forefront of people’s minds - the way we measure it; its elasticity; the way it drags and drips and pours away. Take your time and meander with your eyes.