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Norman Rea: Still Lives

Box of Memories
Thursday, 3rd November 2011

Launching on Monday the 24th of October and running until next Friday, Still Lives examines a multitude of approaches, creates contrasts and raises questions about what art can really do with nature. Curator Maria-Anna Aristova – third year student of History of Art - remarked ‘Still Lives focuses on the tantalising relationships between art and nature, confronting the ways art endeavours to capture the fleeting beauties or find perfection in the order underlying nature.’

As per usual, I approached this exhibition with my ear buds tucked in, using some ambient music to allow my mind to explore the deeper recesses of what is in front of me. It’s a strange habit I will admit, but a beautiful synergy; one which enhances the experience significantly. Collecting the works of three disparate mediums - ceramics (Alex Carr); driftwood assemblage (Emily Hesse); and photography (Lynn Collins, Alana Lake, Sean Padraic Birnie, Paolo Scalera) – Still Lives nevertheless comes across as a cohesive and fully-realised spectacle.

Though located towards the back of the main gallery, I initially bypass the other works to investigate Emily Hesse’s Box of Memories; a free-standing piece inset with an intricate tapestry of seemingly mundane, inanimate objects which despite their simplicity, capture the dense interwoven catalogue of human experience. This certainly rang true in I may be Square but I’ve been around, which certainly raised a smile in the mind of this sometimes juvenile writer, but frankly I see this as a firm positive. As such, Hesse’s work certainly invites the most curiosity of the collections displayed here.

The ceramics of Alex Carr appear fragile by comparison, but exude charm and elegance. The subtly of his work could easily distract from their obvious complexities; Pod is magnificent – it’s tactile nature urging me to ignore the sign on the door, ‘please do not touch the exhibitions’.

The photographic talents are certainly a mixed bag; Paolo Scalera’s observational simplicities offer stark contrasts to the struggles of everyday existence – the notion of the bottle representing one’s soul fuels opulent juxtapositions to their monochrome backgrounds. Birnie’s preoccupations with ‘beauty in death’ are vividly transcribed in Structural Decay - four withering images bestowing a riot of colour onto arbitrary surroundings – capture his manifesto; photographs are not a stitch in time, rather a chronic reminder of the inaccessibility of the past, a singular entity vanishing into fading memory.

Lynne Collins does a wonderful job of creating intrigue. The former’s ‘Lunatic Asylum’ narrative lending to her schizophrenic pieces; we are transported to an old cathedral, woodland climbs the gothic interiors as the sun streams through the stained glass. It is only Alana Lake whom remains an oddity to me; whilst the glorious, highly-saturated images attract, I failed to comprehend any discernable meaning of my own. Perhaps I shall return again tomorrow and contemplate this some more.

See Still Lives at the Norman Rea Gallery, Langwith Upper JCR.

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