Preview: Garth Gratrix, CAMPGROUND
A Small View, 27th May-27th June 2017
Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith
Images courtesy of A Small View & Garth Gratrix
This a preview of a few different parts. Firstly, Garth Gratrix, Blackpool based artist and curator, will be launching an exhibition that plays sharply on words and the artist’s experience of dating as a gay man in the 21st Century. Secondly, A Small View, the gallery that houses him is coming to the end of a long relationship with its curators.
Benjamin Davies & Kelly Hayes have each thrown themselves into the running of this space as BA & MA Graduates but the time has come to pass the space on. Laura Brady & Benjamin Davies are organising this final show, but true to the ethos of the gallery, will be leaving most of the work to Garth Gratrix.
There is something very special about a space led by curators that are completely willing to let artists do what they have to do. It’s not something you get to see often. But with one of the smallest gallery spaces in the city something radical had to happen to make the room attractive to artists. Perhaps that’s why they managed to get such an incredible rolling programme of nationally and internationally renowned artists crammed into this ex-shop unit at the back of Gostins Arcade.
Each artist has made the space their own, from Claire Dorsett’s single painting installation, to Thiago Hersan (and the rest of the then FACT Lab team)’s multimedia debate with the future, it has changed completely every time; always shifting how the space is perceived in itself.
The room has, in a way, been a collaborator with each of its residents. So it’s reassuring to know that the two artists taking this space over once its curators have gone are Michael Lacey and Gabrielle de la Puente. Both of which have exhibited and curated their own exhibitions here at A Small View, so should hopefully be taking on the radical little space understanding a little bit about what makes it tick.
Garth Gratrix, the latest resident is no exception to the rule that every artist puts their own stamp on the room either. His exhibition makes the space feel five times bigger than I’ve experienced before. Something about his strict measurements and repeating colours draws focus away from the corners and creates a room that goes on forever.
The artist is the founding director of Abingdon Studios, a studio and project space in Blackpool Town Centre. Regularly working collaboratively through his In Collaboration With programme this exhibition is an opportunity to see the artist work in his own way, and develop ideas independently.
His installation, CAMPGROUND, is not bashful. It’s a show that takes words, makes fun of them, and isn’t afraid of B&Q.
More often than not, hearing artists talking about materials means a new set of Daler-Rowney paints, so it’s refreshing to hear an artist say they got almost everything on a budget from B&Q. And to say that with such pride that the names of the stock colour paints are even referenced in the work itself.
And it’s hard not to smile at pun after pun after pun, on the title of the exhibition itself. Referencing the artists own sexuality, but using a term more regularly associated with macho camping trips around a fire (erecting the tent pole comes up too… make of that what you will).
Even the colours of budget paints, usually unnoticed, are brought front and centre in this show. Quirkily named by B&Q, ‘Chestnuts in the Park’, ‘Oopsy Daisy’, ‘Dolled Up’ & ‘Shhh’ are the only four colours used.
It’s not all light hearted though, with references made to Nazi Europe’s badging system, and the negative psychological effects of constant expectation on performance when it comes to online dating platforms in the modern world. All of this is made up of simple section of wood cut out and displayed at regular 9inch intervals.
It’s a calm exhibition with simple visuals covering up a much more complicated story, and having a profound effect on the room it inhabits.
A perfect end to the reign of A Small View’s founding team, and what will hopefully be a brilliant interlude in the transfer of creative minds that run this space.