EM14 - Day 1 by Shelley MacDonald

The Residency Begins

"Bachelard’s cerebral headquarters are playing host as the EM14ers move into the Project Space in the attic of Surface Gallery. A steep staircase accompanies you up to a floorboarded expanse stretching from the rear of the building to its face without impediment. Hooded under a large, leaking skylight (to be repaired and unveiled any day now) an opaque, plastic secondary glaze dulls its celestial stream. There are just two EM14 artists at its far reaches and evidence of two more. Tony Moss, with his interest in architecture and illusory space has set up his stall facing the wall. Ali Morgan-Tansley, with her preoccupation with the maternal, the found and memory has appropriated the leftovers other artists have forgotten. She can bubble in domestic frugality as they squeak. Julia Kiely has moved toward the light at the end of the tunnel and positioned herself by a large multi-paned window. She might find a different perspective here looking down and out into exterior space for a change. Her view of the annals of Sneinton Market conjure mining in reverse. Sarah Wilson, seated opposite, is changing the shape of paint as she squeezes tubes into shallow rectangular dishes. Paint, both malleable and assertive, what will it do under her authorship? 

No sign of any of the other artists. Perhaps Christine Stevens’ heptic pleasures leave us touching the void and Alex Wallis’s negative space is denoted by the space returned by his absence. Jez is talking about whether or not to concede to the demands of would-be exhibitors and change the Project Space to their specifications, bowing to the discourse of the bright white environs of contemporary gallery talk, or to simply allow the attic to chat incessantly with its jumble of accrued meaning - slabs of colour, occasional graffiti, breeze block interventions, walls cracked under the weight of nosey neighbours. Megan Lynch’s exploration of urban rot will find an easy companionship here.

Thoughts turn to the ‘other’ EM14 resident, the performance artist, Tina Mirsharifi. The outsider who came in from the heat of Iran to the cold clutch of middle England. Wrapped in a Kilim rug of her childhood she moves like a crab or spider through the streets of two of our whitest cities, Derby and Newcastle, whilst everyone else walks on by. Her work appears to sample Louise Bourgeois and revitalises it to make salient multi-cultural commentary. It speaks of that which is swept under the carpet, those who are trodden on and ignored. It evokes headless and faceless women crawling under the weight of their own industry. The Kilim could be seen as Tina’s comfort blanket designed for discomforting the parochial hush of cultural homogeneity pulling the thumbs from mouths of political babes. The Burka (or Chador) as transitional object, how can compassion bleed cultural boundary as the taxi-driving aid worker from here awaits his fate over there? As Surface attends to its minority inclusion agenda these are valuable enquiries to invite and home.

Tina’s enquiry into Satre’s ‘Bad Faith’ might well doorstep all the EM14 artists. Just how do you behave when you have been invested with the title of artist-in-residence when, perhaps, you don’t even feel like an artist having just shed your skin as a student? The self-consciousness of artist statements are often testament to the fissure between the doing, the thinking and the being. Art’s authenticity is often called into question. The blah, blah, blah of art speak is ridiculed as a national pastime. How will the EM14ers become authentic artists and will the Surface residency facilitate or impede that process? Let’s not draw a veil over this one."

Photograph by Joe Dixey

Photograph by Joe Dixey

Written by EM14 writer-in-residency Shelley MacDonald.