What do Spike Island’s volunteers do when they aren’t volunteering?
They create an exhibition of course.
So the other night, I headed up to Spike Island’s test space to check out the exhibition run by and created by some of Spike Island’s volunteers.
There was activity in the air as soon as I entered, and as I turned to walk into the Test Space, I was greeted by a wall of people. Wading through the unfamiliar and familiar faces, I began my experience at “Exchange”.
The exhibition aimed to “explore the exchange between volunteers, art institutions and the public” by demonstrating the “breadth and depth of talent and the variety of artistic interests that come together within the group”; and I feel it managed to do just that.
The work exhibited was varying and showcased a wide variety of talent. It included a range of pieces from photography to sculpture to performance artwork, and even more.
One of my favourite pieces there was by Olivia Jones.
The piece is a good mixture of the different mediums and techniques. It incorporates the use of a laser cutter and pencil drawing to create some interesting and intriguing patterns. I was instantly drawn to the piece when I entered the room and it just appealed to me most of all.
One of the best features of the exhibition had to be its interaction with its visitors. One of the ideas that the curators had was to create a physical “exchange” of ideas there. There was a corner dedicated to this idea where visitors were encouraged to create drawings and pin them to the wall, then to take another in exchange.
I feel this worked really well and you could see that the wall was busy with people pinning their own drawings up. By the end of the evening, the contents of the wall had completely changed from when it had started. I have to admit, once I got started, it was hard to stop. I can’t resist a bit of drawing!
What was remarkably simple worked incredibly well as it got people involved with the exhibition in a way that they normally wouldn’t consider.
I was lucky enough to talk to two of the artists there – Claire Cullen and Fiona Clabon – who both had their work exhibited.
Claire had created works inspired by the 1920’s/30’s Shanghai pin-up girls. She told me that “the posters were considered as controversial at the time, because of their very suggestive tones, however nowadays they reveal an exquisite mix of East meets West depicted by beautiful women who were clearly modern and fashionable ladies of their time.”
The result of this was a series of three beautiful textile pieces created from layered textures and images.
I asked how she created them to which she responded by saying that she collected and created textures for the abstract landscapes, before scanning then enhancing them. She then went on to add beading and foiling to enrich the look and feel of the fabrics. She intentionally chose textiles offering a high-shine to replicate the impression of “cheap” manufactured Chinese products. She finished by telling me that “the overall aesthetic intends to deliver a kitsch and vibrant interpretation of the parallels between the pre and post Chairman Mao Zedong’s China,” and I think the pieces do just that.
Fiona Clabon presented a series of photographs she had taken on her travels.
She told me how she was fascinated by textures and she was always “stopping every five minutes on a day trip for a photo”. When I asked her why she wanted to present these images, she told me how she wanted to capture the beautiful details of things that we normally miss.
These images certainly do capture that. Each one of them was incredibly interesting and different. I found myself studying them intently. Perhaps her best photo shows the miniscule ice crystals forming on a wooden post – a detail I would have never stopped to admire.
“Exchange” was a really enjoyable exhibition and it was great to meet the volunteers at spike and check out their work.
Thanks for reading,