New Fictions showcases nine young artists looking to create and highlight the lack of questioning and assumptions made within the roles of art. Representation seems to be key to this idea, allowing a whole host of different mediums to be playfully ironic in subtly subverting the norms of presenting art work. The fiction that is new in question assumes that a fiction is automatic within a regular gallery showing meaning that to act as a subversion, a number of the pieces on display stretch themselves beyond a typical form and, in some literal cases, bend physically around the space and themes they choose to address.
The first work to instantly draw the viewer into its new realm is by Ben Stephenson. His work is predominantly painting but the installation of one of his two paintings is the stronger tie to the theme. The City in the Sea shows a pulpy, Vernian Atlantis looking very much like an enjoyable cover from a late 1950’s pulp adventure. Even the presence of words hints at this and the composition is just asking for a 3d price tag somewhere to add the final touch of authenticity. His other work, Fun for Free, seems to be more interested in summer advertisement and picture postcard ideals. However, it is uncomfortable in that the main focus of the painting draws the viewer into looking at someone who’s identity is not worthy of acknowledging; aptly only focussing on their body and not including their face which is hidden by the sea. The painting is set upon ceramic beach balls which only bring the odd hyper-reality depicted in painting even closer to the viewer creating a convincing menace that is often taken for granted in blasé advertising.
Samuel Stokes also uses form to question content within his two collages, Persaro and Untitled. One has taken basic images and interlaced them creating a weave of multicoloured lies allowing images to form, fragment and break depending on angle of viewing. Fragments seem to make up a number of works within the exhibition; perhaps suggesting that new fictions are can now only be created by the dismantling of older ones. This is apparent in Stokes’ second collage which has the feeling of Americana about it due to the imposed presence of a faded American flag clearly taken from something already formalised.
Two pieces of work really take the idea of new fictions into literal new territories at least physically with both of them playing with the gallery space in order to achieve their effect. Alasdair Ferguson’s String Theory and Staircase break up the gallery space while also hinting that it could in fact be bigger. String Theory deliberately closes off part of the walk through while also mapping out a time-span for traversing across the particular part of the gallery space. Staircase on the hand deals in infinite rather than finite suggesting a simple but effective hint towards available space. His fictions are more temporal than anything else.
Alongside Ferguson’s work is the equally abstract work of Laura Ransome. Three Untitled Pieces and Film Still sit together in a seemingly placid way, occasionally evoking the chaos of burning celluloid in a projector. They sit well alongside String Theory as the abstract of time balances an extra dimension of colourful chaos. Perhaps the methodology of process may give new light on the meanings of the work though it is pleasant enough to bask in their ordered, framed chaos. Selina Borji’s work on the other hand creates a new fiction in a more organised form that closely resembles a self-portrait. The photographic collage of ideas and self looks visually interesting but also looks very obvious created and manufactured adding to the fictional elements. A bar code sits along the top while each space is broken up, again into fragments though here they appear to be fragments of self rather than of more abstract topics and allusions.
The subversive nature of film advertising is theme of the final artist to mention (strong artwork by Maria Mappouridis, May Hands and Joshua Wilson was also on show though the latter’s was sadly experiencing technical issues at the time). Nick Booten’s fictional film poster addresses the theme in the most amusing of ways. His film poster advertises Wet Dream; a tongue in cheek faux-dramatisation. The poster raises the most important question in New Fictions in what exactly is taken for granted in advertising. Though amusing, it’s surprising how unnerving the poster can be when realising the sheer amount of jokes and subtleties hidden within, ranging from double entendre taglines and rude cast names (only when take with just the first letter and surname).
It is this element that is unnerving, not just because it works and is effective but because of how easy it seems. If this artist can create a new fiction to address the boyish amusement of double entendre what ideas can the more powerful entity of a company or studio plant in the unsuspecting mind of the casual viewer? New Fictions presents these questions and openly lets the viewer in on the secret even if the knowledge that the fiction is created is a deliberately ironic one.
New Fictions is on until the 20th of August.
Words and Photos – Adam Scovell