Thursday, 27 February 2014

Ship to Shore

Art and the lure of the sea. The subtitle sums up the latest exhibition at SeaCity Museum here in Southampton. I paid it a visit this week and thought it well-worth the trip. Here's how the museum website describes it:

'Ship to Shore explores the different ways that artists have engaged with seas and oceans. The exhibition is an intriguing visual feast of paintings, films, photography and prints alongside archival objects evoking the disorientating vastness of oceans, the romance of sea travel and ship-to-shore communications. Works by contemporary artists such as Tacita Dean, Tracy Emin, Susan Hiller, Steffi Klenz, Richard Long, Langlands and Bell, Humphrey Ocean, Simon Patterson, Zineb Sedira and Yinka Shonibare MBE are exhibited alongside historic paintings including La Vague by Gustav Courbet.
Ship to Shore also offers the visitor a rich visual and audio experience, where the voices of the past are linked with the present, enigmatically joined by the theme of the sea. Ship to Shore is curated by Dr Jean Wainwright in collaboration with the SeaCity Museum and John Hansard Gallery, and is shown across both venues. Artists exhibiting at the John Hansard Gallery include Chris Burden, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Isaac Julien and Catherine Yass.'

Catherine Yass - Lighthouse series  2011
I guess the piece that stayed with me was Zineb Sedira's 16-minute film entitled 'MiddleSea', in which the viewer joins a solitary man on an empty passenger ferry travelling from Marseille to Algiers. He wanders the empty corridors, drinks coffee by himself and stares out over the vast expanse of featureless sea. We see the waves, we hear the deep throb of the engine, a seagull, a radio, the ship's horn and feel engulfed by it; the images are projected on a wall which must be something like 30 feet wide and 20 feet high.

I've always had a rather difficult relationship with video and film installation... I often struggled to 'get' them and would rarely stay to watch a whole piece, but I find as I get older, I can appreciate them much more (or maybe it's the lure of a bit of a sit down in a quiet, darkened space...). I don't wrestle with them in order to 'get' them; I experience them and take from them what I can. This piece was calming, it lulled me. I was travelling with the figure in the film but also we were waiting, in between places, neither here nor there. I particularly liked that other sounds from the gallery building blended with the film's soundtrack; violin music from another exhibit, the clatter of crockery from the museum cafe, slow footsteps of other visitors, the odd murmur of conversation. They didn't in any way distract from the piece but somehow complimented it - for me at least.

Langland and Bell - Into the blue  2014

Steffi Klenz - Concert for Maison Seiren  2014

Steffi Klenz - Concert for Maison Seiren  2014

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