These are some proespective labels I started writing for an exhibition at a gallery I work at, the Black Swan Arts. The Urban Wastelands Project is a collaboration between the artist Day Bowman and the film-maker Ian Knox, exploring the abandoned spaces of our towns and cities, and bringing this together with ideas about mass migration, loss and modern culture. These pieces thus take into account the film as well, with the music of Transglobal Underground, a multi-national band who are greatly interested in themes of emigration and social movement. To fully understand these pieces I would highly recommend seeing the exhibition, running until the 28th. It explores some interesting concepts, and is particularly interesting through the interplay between the three arts: painting, music and film. These were written as labels (not actually applied yet, I was asked a bit late in the exhibition) to help people unfamiliar with this style of art to work their way into the pieces, and to see the connections between the paintings and the film.
Downstream Looking Towards Gasometer 1
This piece links most clearly with Ian Knox’s film, and expresses many of the ideas at the centre of the Urban Wastelands Project. The palette reflects the bleak reality of the urban wastelands, while trecurring shapes act as symbols for common sights and sounds. The spiralling charcoal is reminiscent of the kites of Ian Knox’s film, while the sharp rectangular shpaes reflect the pragmatism of the abandoned concrete structures of the docklands and waterside spaces. Splashes of orange and grey connote the sounds of water crashing, adding an almost confrontational element to the piece. Over all is the arching shape of the gasometer itself, reminding us of the scale of the landscape, and the ideas of loss, and migration away from these spaces, which Bowman seeks to present throughout the exhibition.
In this piece colour is significant in portraying mood and evoking sights. The palette is dominated by white, grey, black and blue, in places layered upon eachother. The streaks and splashes of grey here indicate scratches in the industrial concerete, as seen in Ian Knox’s film. The gasometer itself becomes the main feature, ominous at the back of the picture space, over which is layered rectangular forms which are a tribute to the domination of these man made forms over nature’s flowing, expressive forms, represented by the floating and twining lines of charcoal, and in the rolling forms of lightly applied white paint.
This collection of 12 collages skilfully and concisely draws the themes of the Urban Wastelands Project into smaller piece, on a more domestic scale than the previous paintings, which have all been at least four foot square. Each of the collages can be approached individually, or as part of a larger collage of the collected pieces. Gasometers again dominate, but here we also see the industrial forms of chimneys are warehouses, with the scaffolding of piers and docks. While some retain the palette which brings us to reflect on waterside wastelands, others have a richer, orangey palette, reminiscent of the evening skies of active industrial towns. Recurring forms of rectangles and splashes of paint connote the sights and sounds of the Urban Wastelands, and create a link between these small works and the larger pieces. The bleakness and absence of any humanoid shapes strikes home the ideas of loss, absence and isolation that Bowman so strongly wishes to connote in her piece, based on her own experience, and on her view of society as a whole, and society’s relationship with its urban and industrial spaces.