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Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Age of the Marvellous exhibition

Photo by ArtLyst © 2009

Age of the Marvellous, Holy Trinity Church, 1 Marylebone Rd, London 13-21 October was coordinated by the unorthodox partnership of Joe La Placa and Mike Platt of ‘All Visual Arts’ is a experiment in the art world. Both collectors, and dealers AVA only collect the work of artists they highly admire, and like dealers they then mount shows with which to promote this work to the wider public. Rather than taking on a gallery, situations appropriate to the exhibition proposed are found as and when they are needed, removing overhead costs and ensuring the most exciting of exhibitions. The Age of the Marvellous is the third such exhibition by the pair since their partnership in 2008. Inspired by the Cabinets of Curiosity, popular, in the late Renaissance and Baroque period these were rooms filled with natural wonders, art works and relics; in an era characterised by a revival of leaning such rooms symbolically conveyed the patrons control of the world, often the collections of rulers and aristocrats. It is the diversity of such collections which has inspired provided the framework for this exhibition; looking to a varied, cross-disciplinary approach each artist was commissioned to create works which ventured outside the boundaries of traditional art making. The cabinet of curiosity was constructed in order to incite awe, wonder and astonishment, it is this notion that informs the both the content and the situation of the exhibition. A theatrical notion is apparent through the method of entering the exhibition, the spectator is invited to draw aside a thick red velvet curtain in order to enter. Commencing in such a way, with a necessity for the observer to interact with the space immediately differentiates this from the open plan spaces of modern galleries, for example the Tate Modern. In a brave and successful move the viewer moves fist into two small, dark, rooms; minimal lighting removes the visitor from the busy street and into a new physical and psychological state. Outstanding within these rooms for is Ben Tyers’ Breathe (2009), drawing attention to this unconscious process within the viewer themselves Tyers promotes a synchronisation between the art and viewer and many consciously consider and alter their breathing to concur with the inanimate work. In a transition unashamedly created to insight awe the visitor is invited to again pull back curtains and move into the most spectacular space of the exhibition, the nave of the former church. Immediately captivating is Polly Morgans At the Beginning, a hanging framework apparently suspended by the flight of several birds. At the Beginning, inspired by a Victorian proposal for a flying machine is a hauntingly evocative work which is displayed to great effect within the vast nave. Confronting the viewer as they enter Morgans installation develops to become more than a work placed within a space, but one which is impacted upon and crucially one which impacts upon the majestic room. Dramatic shadows are thrown to the outer limits of the space impacting upon spectators, works surrounding it and the naves great mirrors. Even as a one turns away from the work in order to consider MccGwires alluring sculptural forms more intently the effects of Morgans work remain. This enigmatic space is filled with diverse works, referencing nature, power, intrigue, beauty and, in the case of Kate MccGwire’s forms simultaneously fear and repulsion. MccGwire’s Urge (2009) and Wrest (2009) are intrinsically disconcerting unidentifiable forms meticulously constructed from magpie, pigeon and jackdaw feathers. Whether these forms are emerging, evolving, escaping or dying each form appears to take on a living capacity, enticing the viewer yet simultaneously leaving the viewer unsettled by their writhing form.
Text extracted from The Pandorian Sara Kellett
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