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rEVIEWS

Soanyway Reviews

 

These will be published on a rolling basis, in between our issues.

 

Reviews of exhibitions, books, poetry, translation, music, theatre, opera, architecture, design, ceramics etc.

 

We interpret the review form broadly, and we would like to publish work that experiments with the idea. This means it can incorporate commentary, interview, conversation, comparison and other forms of response.

 

These reviews can be from any time, place, discipline. If you have reviewed an exhibition that happened 2 years, 10 years or a 50 years ago, we would like to see it. If you went to a concert last week, or watched a performance yesterday, we would like to hear about it. If you think there is a book from a 100 years ago, or a film or piece of music, that you think missed its chance or you've had further thoughts about, send us your review of it.

 

We ask that they are no longer than 1,500 words, unless you contact us to ask otherwise. Please include a 50-100 word description of your review. If you are not sure whether your idea fits, please read our magazine description on the homepage, browse our contents and email us your query.


Roy Claire Potter is an artist and writer with a diverse body of work accumulated over the last fifteen or so years across the fields of performance, writing, audio, drawing, sculpture, and installation; often collaborating with musicians and sound artists in radio broadcast and live music events. They are also involved in artist-mentoring and higher education. George Storm Fletcher is a young performance artist working with text, printmaking, photography and video, whilst also continuing their postgraduate education. Both are artists who bring their own queer identities and perspectives to bear through their work in unique, thoughtful, and revealing ways, to reflect on, illuminate, and confront their (and our) experience of contemporary culture and everyday life.


I saw a screening of Fletcher’s new video work, Heaven, just days after finishing reading Potter’s newly published novel, The Wastes. The proximity of those impactful experiences of each of these two very different works cast, for me, a new light on the other; hence this reflection on the parallels and contrasts between them.



Book cover of The Wastes by Roy Claire Potter and Film still from Heaven by George Storm Fletcher

 

The grit referred to in my title is, in part, a figure of speech, as in ‘true grit’, signifying strength of character, courage, and tenacity. It is also, literally, the millstone grit that characterises both the Pennine landscapes central to Potter’s novel and the building material of Kirkstall Abbey and many of the walls and older buildings around Leeds that are the essential backdrop to the narrative of Fletcher’s film. In that sense at least, ‘grit’ is common to them both. Charm, however, is an adjective that might be more readily applied to Heaven and its predominant tone than to The Wastes. The text work that accompanies Heaven reads, MY LUCK WAS ABOUT TO CHANGE, celebrating the moment when a long and gruelling walk is ended by the welcome offer of a ride in a florist’s van. When luck changes for the protagonist of The Wastes, it is more often for the worst. The significance of a photograph of Vanessa Redgrave, a still from the film Wetherby that also graces the novel’s cover, eventually becomes apparent as the story unfolds. There is, the author describes, “a chaotic crisscross of misfortune” behind Redgrave’s eyes. Much of the actual and metaphorical journey of the novel might be described in the same way, but the story is recounted without self-pity, and this restraint magnifies the book’s impact.

 

Heaven engages playfully with the road movie genre, documenting a conversation-filled journey shared by the artist and their mother, Amanda, along Kirkstall Road from the centre of Leeds to the outlying village of Burley-in-Wharfedale. Through their dialogue, prompted by Amanda’s recollection of making the same journey as a teenager after a night out on which she missed the last bus home, mostly walking, hitchhiking unsuccessfully, until she was eventually picked up by the driver of the aforementioned florist’s van, filled with the heavenly scent of flowers. In its easy-going, conversational (and often very funny) way, the film reflects on memory and its frequent flaws, social and cultural histories, psychogeography, sexuality, ageing, and intimacy. This narrative, set in a particular moment of historical time, reminds us that the past often seems relatively stable compared with our ever-changing present. This is reflected in the dialogue (for example in fragmentary references to past pop music, or drinking culture, or fashion) but most importantly visually, in the presence of the streetscape and landscape that we see flashing past in an equally fragmented way through the windows of the van. Heaven illustrates well the way we seldom remember things in their entirety but in vivid flashes. The film compresses many such diverse flashes, many funny, others poignant, combining them in a way that creates a coherent narrative. The fact that these memories are recounted through the intimate conversation of an obviously loving familial relationship, on which we are generously allowed to eavesdrop, is what lends the film so much of its charm and sense of joy.


Film still from Heaven by George Storm Fletcher

 

Travel, sometimes walking, briefly on a bus, but mostly a journey on a miserable and unreliable commuter train across the Pennines from Liverpool to Hull, is also central to the narrative of The Wastes. The journeyings it recounts are both purposeful and aimless. It is a powerful novel of introspection and observation, revealing much about the underbelly of the landscapes and towns of northern England. It concerns survival, economically, culturally, and psychologically. From the multiple perspectives of class, financial hardship, gender identity, sexuality, embodiment, and mental health, and in the various contexts of strained family and other personal relationships, and the capitalist alienation of underpaid and stressful work, The Wastes is ultimately concerned with the self: shaping or defining it; losing and regaining a sense of it; locating it in relation to the selfhood of others. “Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt”, wrote the Roman poet Horace two millennia ago –  “they change their sky, not their soul, who rush across the sea”, reminding us that wherever we go, we remain, in our embodied selves, where we are. Each in their own way, Potter and Fletcher use travel in their narratives to reflect on how we shape and understand our ‘selves’.


Roy Claire Potter. Photo © Ilaria Falli.


The philosopher and poet John Koethe wrote in his 1993 essay, Poetry and the Poetry of Experience, that, “what seems most characteristic of subjectivity isn’t the content of any particular state of awareness, but, rather, the transition from instant to instant between perspectives, from an awareness of the objects of thought to an awareness of thought itself, in an unbounded sequence of reflexive movements.” In the proliferating links and layers of a life story, recalled through an account of a single day’s journey, Potter creates a novel that embodies the complexity of subjective experience in a world that is recalcitrant to it, constructing connections in a way that conveys what Koethe calls “the experience of experience”. Fletcher’s real time film journey recounting the layers of memory and history associated with the earlier journey that it recalls does something similar.


 

Film stills from Heaven by George Storm Fletcher


Heaven recreates, as faithfully as it can, the sensations of and emotional responses to an actual event (or, more accurately, two events: the mother’s journey thirty years ago, and the shared journey made recently to recall it). Its method is a spontaneous conversation that, whilst entirely focused on specific recollections of the original event, reveals much more about a familial relationship and the intimacies of communication across generations. In contrast, The Wastes is a work of fiction, written over an extended period, and related solely from the perspective of its author. Its central event is a single train journey, but it encompasses a life story. Fiction and autobiography should not be confused, but most fiction draws at least indirectly on the lived experience of its author. Such experience, condensed, reprocessed, and seen anew through the lens of storytelling, often lends greater significance to everyday reality, imbuing emotional responses and momentary reactions to mundane experience with long-lasting relevance. Through the narrative language of a skilled writer (and Roy Claire Potter certainly is one) an empathy is enabled in readers that allows them to identify the experiences of fictional others with their own.


Film still of Vanessa Redgrave in 'Wetherby', dir. David Hare, 1985


In their focus on a single journey to tell a much bigger story of lives lived, both Potter’s The Wastes and Fletcher’s Heaven are related – not least in their capacity to make us think about the concept of ‘revision’. Their revision is not simply retrospective, narrating the past as if in a straight line; rather they both, in their different ways, repurpose their respective narratives to simultaneously look backward (re–vision) and forward (revising something toward new ends).

 

 

 

The Wastes by Roy Claire Potter is published as part of Arrhythmia, a series curated for Book Works by Katrina Palmer. ISBN: 978 1 912570 20 1

 

Heaven, made by George Storm Fletcher in collaboration with the filmmaker Ronnie Danaher, is included in their solo exhibition of the same name at Hyde Park Art Club, Leeds. ( 29 May 2024 - 28 August 2024)

Infinita infanzia at Palazzo Collicola, Spoleto, Italy

23rd March 2024 - 9th June 2024

Curated by Saverio Verini

 

Infinita infanzia is a group exhibition which immerses visitors through the voices, spaces and connotations of childhood. It creates a stimulating journey through the rooms of the museum that is caught and held in tension between the dark and the idyllic. A group show of twenty three artists (mostly Italian living artists), crossing generations and mediums, the exhibition considers childhood in its universality and as a multifarious concept where no two experiences are the same.


Installation view of Infinita Infanzia at Palazzo Collicola, Spoleto, 2024. Centre: Cesare Pietroiusti, “Pinocchio” nuovo con gomma, Trieste Zona A, 1954, 25 Lire, rosa carminio sovrastampato I-II-III-IV-V-VI, 2022. Courtesy the artist and Gallery Apart, Rome. Right: Andrea Salvino. Pinocchio, 2021. Collection Flaminia Cerasi. Photo: Giuliano Vaccai.



To respond to an exhibition grappling with the idea of childhood, I find it difficult not to impose or project my own experiences of childhood. Travelling through the show, I felt a sense of heightened emotions which varied distinctly from room to room and work to work, with some provoking memories and sensations that I could perhaps relate to and others that I felt pushed against my experiences. In this way, the exhibition contains a natural intimacy and introspection that is at the same time framed in the shared experience of the exhibition space. It evokes a kind of exposure of this process of introspection, of looking inside and presenting it outside.

 

The age range, years, of this stage of life is not specified in the exhibition. Left ambiguous, this emphasises the exhibition's exploration of the imagined concept of childhood rather than a concrete biological or psychological period. There is no singular or definitive childhood; it is a subjective experience that appears to subsequently get assessed and framed by the society the adult grows into. This ambiguity over when and where childhood might be located, encourages the question as to whether this period of life is fixed or ever-changing. How does an adult look back at childhood? What place does childhood have in the making of art? Where does the child reside in the art world?


Vedovamazzei, Early Works (Raffaello all’età di 7 anni), 2021, Stick oil pastels and acrylic on canvas, 290 x 335 cm, 2021. Courtesy Vedovamazzei and Magazzino, Rome. Photo: Giuliano Vaccai.


Luca Bertolo, Il fiore di Anna #2, 2019, Oil and crayon on canvas, 200 x 250 cm. Courtesy the artist and SpazioA, Pistoia. Photo: Giuliano Vaccai.



It takes the visitor on a journey paralleled to a story. The first room, titled 'Prologue', usually used for the introductory part of a book, gives the impression that the visitor is entering a tale. I recall Disney films, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940) and Cinderella (1950), that begin with a book being opened, the 'once upon a time', leading the viewer into the pages of the book which become the immersed world of the film. This first room proposes a consideration of perspective: with a large work, the viewer is made to feel small. It is a work by the artists' collective Vedovamazzei of a child's drawing Early Works (Raffaello all'età di 7 anni) (2021) copying Raphael's Portrait of Young Woman with Unicorn (c.1505-06), introducing an exchange between the worlds and perspectives of child and adult. The last room of the exhibition, continuing with the sense of a book, is titled 'Epilogue' and includes the imitation of a child's drawing by an adult by Luca Bertolo Il fiore di Anna #2 (2019). In this way, the artwork appears a point of intersection in the exchange between child and adult interpretations of art, creativity and each other. This story through the journey of the group exhibition is inevitably not a story of a singular voice, but is made up of a tapestry of voices; it is a polyphonic narrative.



Installation view of Infinita Infanzia at Palazzo Collicola, Spoleto, 2024. Front: Alexander Calder, Standing Mobile, 1974. Collection Galleria d’Arte Moderna “G. Carandente”. Back left to right: Adelaide Cioni, Bozzetto per il mare, 2019 and Cerchi gialli, 2021; Posizioni di volo, 202. Courtesy the artist and P420, Bologna. Photos: Giuliano Vaccai.



The journey through the ground floor spaces of the Palazzo Collicola takes the visitor on a circular walk from room to room, each exploring a separate element which intersects with the adjoining rooms. The works are displayed with sensitivity to the place and architecture of the Palazzo Collicola, and its unique textures, bringing out affinities of the works with each other and with the space. The third room 'Elementary Complexity' considers the possibility of basic forms to evoke complexity. Here there a sense of stillness awaiting movement in the works by Alexander Calder and Adelaide Cioni, which also share an affinity of colours. Calder's mobile moves subtly in the flow of air, so that it might never be seen from the same angle twice. Cioni's stitched fabric Posizioni di volo (2021) appears to frame a bird in flight, the stitches almost invisible such that the bird feels tied by an illusion. In the following room, titled 'The Attendance Register', exploring school, rules and rebellion, the work of Maurizio Cattelan Punizioni (1991) is placed centrally between two windows, below the palimpsestic wall with traces of lines and patterns from an earlier period. The lines of the paper, and their varying shades of yellow complement this space. There is also a subtle reference to Spoleto in Tomaso Binga's work Alfabeto Pop / Chiesa (1977), a drawing of the cathedral covered by letters reminiscent of a text for learning how to spell, rooting it to the location.



Slideshow (1-5): (1) Installation view of Infinita Infanzia at Palazzo Collicola, Spoleto, 2024. Left to right: Riccardo Baruzzi, Abaco, 2018. Courtesy the artist and P420, Bologna; Filippo Berta, Happens Everyday, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Prometeo gallery Ida Pisani; Tomaso Binga, Alfabeto Pop series, 1977, Courtesy the artist and Erica Ravenna Gallery; Maurizio Cattelan, Punizioni, 1991. Private collection, Florence. Courtesy Tornabuoni Arte. (2) Maurizio Cattelan, Punizioni, 1991. Mixed media on 30 sheets of paper, 204 x 204 x 6 cm. (3) Installation view left to right: Filippo Berta, Happens Everyday, 2012; (visible through door: Namsal Siedlecki and Myriam Laplante, see below); Binga. (4) Binga. Alfabeto Pop / Casa and Alfabeto Pop / Chiesa, 1977, Collage on pre-printed cardboard, 39 x 26 cm. Courtesy the artist and Erica Ravenna Gallery. (5) Simona Weller, Senza Titolo, Mixed media on canvas, 15 x 30 cm, 1973-4. Courtesy the artist and Erica Ravenna Gallery. Photos: Giuliano Vaccai.



The idea of storytelling and the place of the story within this journey of the exhibition begins to appear in a room dedicated to Pinocchio. This features an captivating story on film by Cesare Pietroiusti, of a stamp and making a work from this stamp and story, interweaving its monetary and artistic value, and tying the process of making to the process of storytelling. In the room's contemplation of Pinocchio, the space raises the power of the imagination to create and give life, to animate toys and objects and put them in motion. The idea of the game and of play, is significant throughout the exhibition, offering the possibility of game as a form of universal language. Further on, in a completely darkened room, a film by Diego Marcon, Ludwig (2018), with haunting music that plays on repeat, prompting a sense of vertigo and disorientation, I felt a toying between dark humour and tragedy that children's animated films can contain and might only be fully recognised in adulthood. In another room, Linda Fregni Nagler's haunting series of photographs Hidden Mother (2013) reminds the visitor of the exhibition as an intersection in the exchange between adult and child worlds, as they depict children being held or propped by the hands of faceless adults that attempt to remain hidden and erase their presence and make the child the central subject.

 

During the exhibition's duration, there was a performance by one of the artists, Myriam Laplante, which animated the work is a disturbing mode of play. It evokes, with humour, the scariness of fairy tales, which perhaps try to warn children how to behave. Laplante's piece Lupas in Fabula (2005-24) consists of wild-looking bears on the floor with swollen stomachs, and in her performance, Laplante transformed these animals, through an intensive metamorphosis, into items of domestic furniture. This room also contains work by Mattia Pajè, including Un giorno tutto  questo sarà tuo (2019) showing a sleeping baby, juxtaposed by large black circles, perhaps evoking a vulnerability of childhood, and mystery about it.


In the polyphony of voices, crossing between the conscious and subconscious, darkness and delight, the exhibition creates a narrative through the complex concept of childhood; at the same time, it weaves the spaces of the museum in with these works, which push and pull each other in a play of tensions and affinities.




Slideshow (6-14): (6) Installation view of Infinita Infanzia at Palazzo Collicola, Spoleto, 2024. Foreground: Myriam Laplante Lupus in Fabula, 2005-2024. Courtesy the artist; background: Mattia Pajè, Un giorno tutto questo sarà tuo, 2019. Courtesy the artist. (7) Installation view, left to right: Luigi Ontani, Pinocchio, 1972. Private collection. Courtesy L’Attico and Fabio Sargentini; Marta Roberti, Autoritratto come Pinocchio, 2024. Courtesy the artist and z2o Sara Zanin. (8) Diego Marcon, Ludwig, 2018, Video, CGI animation, color, sound, loop. Courtesy: the artist and Sadie Cole HQ, London. (9, 10) Linda Fregni Nagler, The Hidden Mother, 2013, 5 platinum palladium print on cotton paper, each 51 x 39 cm. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Monica De Cardenas, Milan. (11) Installation view, foreground: Namsal Siedlecki, Group Show, 2014-2024. Courtesy the artist and Magazzino, Rome; background: Carol Rama, Dorina, 1946. Private collection, Turin. (12) Francesca Grilli, Sparks, 2021. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Umberto Di Marino, Naples. (13) Calixto Ramírez, Tana libera tutti!, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Alessandra Bonomo. (14) Installation view, foreground: Elena Bellantoni, CeMento, 2019. Courtesy the artist; background: Thomas Braida, Sculturine, 2014 - 2024 and Tassidermia in festa, 2011. Courtesy the artist and and Monitor, Rome, Lisbon, Pereto. Photos: Giuliano Vaccai.





Tom Bland writes a response to the exhibition Aspirational Bucolics by Benjamin Fitton at LUNGLEY Gallery, London which ran from 20th January 2023 - 25th February 2023.


I went off one morning to visit a few galleries

A grey January day in London

I have to say that I was so taken by Fitton’s show

(The other ones went their way)

One might have said ‘seriousness’ because it is very precise;

Very carefully orchestrated, but it is also funny;

There is an excellent sense of humour in this work;

And the serious and studied awareness of art in all the corners that are present to us;

But are not always picked out and observed.

I was so happy to be there with work that was thinking, allowing, friendly and knowing

It’s not very often one walks into a space and feels one is being given something.

The last time that happened to me was in Milan when I came round a corner and saw

Works by Jannis Kounellis and then again the same generous feeling in two works by Manzoni.

Before that other works in other places which are made with a similar capacity to shift

The mind as though from a non-space, a nowhere that is nevertheless there

With the same sense of precision.

This takes a life spent dedicated to things that are not obvious

But are there all the time.

There is something very human about that;

About the idea of a clumsiness that becomes the means,

Or a passing thought that becomes as potent as a powerful scientific formula.

Where does the thought come from…?

Ducks, quack, quack, stuck outside on a rainy windowsill

Inside the plaster speaks of distant things, evoking stuff in your memory

Or misty parts you are not sure of

Perhaps these thoughts are held by the carefully placed blue clamps

Framing the back of the ‘wall’ works, standing like an old Master on an easel

Or maybe the rubber gloves, gardening or trade gloves have become somehow duck-like

From Monet to passing clouds, thoughts drifting, are you here? Says a spectre ghost

Somewhere in the reading, literary or walking round a large gallery full of oil paintings of the bucolic

Sinking and the lifted out, given a voice, all ethereal…then quack, quack and back to the rain, London

What a treat! This is where we are now it seems to say,

But it’s not certain and there is something enrichingly uplifting in that.


London, 27.1.23.




Images courtesy Benjamin Fitton and LUNGLEY Gallery.

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