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Exceptional, Collyer Bristow Gallery

  • Let curator Rosalind Davis take you on a magical mystery tour through some 'Exceptional' art works.


    The exhibition, which showcases emerging talent from 3 of London's top art schools, Goldsmith's, Middlesex University, and City & Guilds of London Art School, is fascinating and takes you on a journey through themes such as throwaway consumerism, urban development, the brutalism of motherhood and wildlife degradation.


    Artists who graduated from the above art schools during the last 3 years were invited to enter and the exhibiting artists were chosen by Rosalind, who is Collyer Bristow Gallery's independent curator, and the firm's Gallery Committee. Whitechapel Director Iwona Blazwick chose the winner and three highly commended artists.


    The art works are intriguing and provoking, but what most fascinated me about the exhibition was how Rosalind had cleverly and imaginatively curated it. Sometimes curation can seem a bit perplexing, and it can feel as if a theme has been unnecessarily forced on works that can speak for themselves.


    Intriguingly the traditional dictionary definition of a curator is someone who is a keeper or custodian of a museum or collection, ie “the curator of drawings at the National Gallery.”


    Of course this definition is now blurred with today’s curators who are more like conductors of an orchestra of artworks and aim to put on interesting and exciting art exhibitions.


    As Rosalind showed me around the exhibition it opened my eyes to what good curation could be. Too often you can see curation that tries to make coherence out of artworks by hanging together a couple of paintings that have the same colours, or the opposite end of the spectrum where post modern concepts have been pressed onto works.


    But here Rosalind has researched the works and the ideas behind them and allowed them to suggest to her how they should relate to each other.



    The winning work by Emmanuelle Loiselle from City & Guilds of London Art School


    For instance take the winning work by Emmanuelle Loiselle from City & Guilds of London Art School. A giant piece with painting and fridge doors and a bit of a microwave, it effectively gets across the challenges of motherhood - with a nice balance between sweet chaos drifting into something more disturbing as what looks like raspberry juice, or perhaps blood, oozes down the side of a fridge.



    Heterotopia 2 by Diane Rogan


    Rosalind then neatly takes this theme of the brutalism of motherhood, which also hints at survival and rebirth and leads you onto the next works which also deal with a sense of survival and rebirth as you see shrubbery growing around disused buildings in the work Heterotopia 2 by Diane Rogan or Graham Murtough’s (one of the commended artists and from City & Guilds of London Art School) installation which has shrubbery bursting through cracked paving stones. A great installation, incidentally, as it uses so few items and has such a simple elegance.



    One of the Commended work by Graham Murtough from City & Guilds of London Art School


    The gentle unfolding of themes continues with a work by Kate Lennard (another commended artist and from City & Guilds of London Art School) which moves on from the fall of utopia hinted at by the works like Heteropia 2 and drifts neatly into the theme of the chaos of fictional constructs with her weird staged photos that have an unnatural quality to them.



    One of the Commended Works by Kate Lennard from City & Guilds of London Art School


    The show continues in a similar fashion with the themes from one section suggesting the themes in the next. In fact Rosalind’s notes, pictured below, are like a mini art work in themselves as you can see the ideas flowing and following each other around.



    A great show with lots of intriguing works, and it showed me that curation can be an imaginative way to weave a story around art works. Do see the show if you can and, even better, get Rosalind to show you around herself.


    Exceptional, The Collyer Bristow Gallery, 22 Feb - 14 June 2017.




    Review by Robert Dunt, artist and Founder of -