Looking at 'Locals'
Monday night saw the opening of the annual exhibition ‘Locals’ at the Norman Rea Gallery, a celebration of local talent in Yorkshire. The first exhibition of the Spring term, it explored a range of themes and skill-sets, creating a visually stimulating experience for the visitor. The exhibition was successful in bringing together not only local working artists but also that of students from local universities, including the University of York, expressing their creative talent beyond their degrees.
One feature of the exhibition was a series of photographs entitled 'The Look' by Beth Leitch, a photography student at the University of Huddersfield. The experimental photographs combine the classical discipline of portraiture with abstract compositions of dried leaves and flowers overlaying the photographic image, obscuring the scene. The concealment of the figure created by these natural objects, challenges the traditional notion of human identity, generating a certain anonymity, evoking notions of escapism from the familiarity of what we perceive as reality in everyday experience. Leitch’s series was originally inspired by Stephen Gill’s Hackney Flowers [image below right], adopting a similar technique of layering flowers and thereby veiling the image. However, Leitch’s emphasis on portraiture sharpens the complexities of identity and the portrayal of self. She describes her work as a reflection of the scrutiny in the media today, presenting the figure of a person, yet protecting them from criticism with the obscuring elements. Leitch’s work was positioned amidst a large selection of photography on show in the exhibition, drawing interesting parallels and distinctions within different approaches to a medium often considered the epitome of objective reality.
In stark contrast to the range of photography was the installation work by Kate Buckley, a student currently studying 3D Contemporary Craft at York College. Her work juxtaposes the traditional with unsettling themes, creating an uncanny familiarity and closeness to the viewer. The particular pieces in the exhibition used the domestic scene of a tea ceremony, created through an range of media, from bending wires to embroidery, demonstrating her vast skill-set. The tea set incorporated messages such as “We are unravelling” and “We need to talk", thus juxtaposing complex textual riddles with mundane objects. Buckley states her work aims to bring to light the issues of communication within relationships, highlighting the need to connect and also contest the gender imbalance in a domestic setting.
‘Locals,’ proved an eclectic exhibition, dealing with a number of themes, challenging convention, and expressing identity through a range of media. A celebration of the talent and creativity of Yorkshire-based artists, the exhibition perhaps implicitly suggested that, in the pursuit of enlightening visual experiences, we might look closer to home...
'Locals' was on display at the Norman Rea Gallery between 22-27 January 2018.