Art on show in Brighton and Hove & East and West Sussex
“Nine Exhibition” is an intriguing show that reveals the inner world of nine part-time artists whose shared experience is their work at a trendy call centre in Brighton. Russell Honeyman went to the opening at Naked Eye Gallery on Friday night 18 September 2015, and wrote this review. Pictures by Marta Ptaszkiewicz.
The works in this show are diverse, ranging from sculptures made of birds wings, to photo-realistic painting, to Buddha-head mandalas, to dark works inspired by psychedelic graphic novels from the 1970’s.
There are confident paintings from experienced artists alongside early explorations of technique or medium. From the start, I was intrigued by references to art movements and spiritual paths – and a sense of underlying purpose.
I chatted with the artists, and to my delighted surprise I found out they all work at Pure, Brighton’s trendiest call centre. Pure makes a big thing of being an ethical fund-raiser, and attracts staff who are spiritual, creative, or otherwise lovely.
I stopped and peered at a finely worked piece, an intriguing flowing composition painted in acrylic with fine black hatching over the surface – a wasteland with a struggling humanoid form pinioned to sharp rusty metal. I asked the artist, Stuart Hermolle, about his work. His inspirations include psychedelic comics from the 1970’s, and the industrial landscapes of his forefathers..
Stuart said this is the second group show by workers at Pure. Pure encourages creativity amongst its employees – they sketch each other at work. Their first group show was at Jilted Dog gallery a few months ago.
I asked Stuart if he thought there was a theme to the show. “I can’t speak for everyone but I imagine if there is any kind of thread drawing this group of artists together, it’s that we’re interested in exploring our own visions or our own imaginations about the inward, exploring internally, I don’t think any of us are interested in making comments on society or the art world.”
By the time I got halfway round the show my feelings had gone from trepidation to enjoyment. It was a touching, real experience to be given this insight into the worlds of non professional artists, people who work but take their spare time to create – people who have managed to get beyond the gagging of society’s expectations that they be mute.
So what are these inner visions? Oleg Baikoff showed images of Buddha in Bali, painted in Fauvist style – and a more poignant Buddha seated by the side of a drowned world war two warplane. Tom Diamantopoulo offered angry, sharp –beaked, bound creatures, and the pathos of a heart envisaged as a home. Tom was, before he worked for Pure, a successful musician, and gave up art school for his band. Catherine Parsons’ work contains shamanic overtones in an arrangement of disembodied owls wings, surely reveal a desire to fly, to be free. Sarah Walpole showed figurative, painterly works on found timber with a fine sense of colour and tone and a variety of moods from the lyrical “Climbing Hills, Chasing Dreams” to the sombre “I cried and I didn’t move you”. Victoria Gould contributed bitter-sweet pop art paintings, cameos of ordinary life, narrated by voice bubbles. Victoria is a successful artist who has has sold at the Royal Academy, a reminder that the distinction between ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ artist is a very blurry one indeed. Luke Heath showed visceral visions of organic forms entwined with hard, dark matter – inspired, he says by HR Giger. Polly Skeet’s delicate drawings touch on spiritual themes from the plains bison to the mandalas. Robert Rinn provided an image of cars flying above the city.
An amateur psychologist would look at these inner visions, and say they are the shadows of the happy exteriors of the artists, or hardened call centre operators, depending. This honesty and insight into real people coping with the contradictions in modern society, expressing themselves in art, makes the show worth going to see.
Brightonians will identify with the message, because we’re all so fluffy, creative, ethical and spiritual. Aren’t we? Well, at least we’re on the journey.
Polly Skeet ~ Oleg Baikoff ~ Luke Heath ~ Stuart Hermolle – Robert Rinn ~ Catherine Parsons ~ Tom Diamantopoulo ~ Sarah Walpole ~ Victoria Gould
Nine Exhibition – 16-30 September, Naked Eye Gallery, Farm Mews, Farm Road, Hove. http://www.nakedeyegallery.com/