Review: Straddling The Fence at The Bridewell

Straddling The Fence - LJMU Fine Art MA Interim Show at the Bridewell
Straddling The Fence - LJMU Fine Art MA Interim Show at the Bridewell

‘Straddling The Fence’ – LJMU MA Fine Art Interim Show
The Bridewell. Friday 18 – Monday 21 March 2016

Words and photographs by Patrick Kirk-Smith

An intriguing flag on a wall, a film that takes most of its success from how it works with the architecture, and an audio recording sat suspiciously in a corner on a nonchalant speaker. LJMU’s MA Fine Art students present an odd an enticing selection of work that, more than anything, makes you want to know more.

I guess there’s no better compliment for an interim show. What was on display was far from a process-led exhibition, and delivered some clearly finished work from artists that show more and more dedication to their advancement on this course with a student body that is more connected with the art world outside their own studios than any group I’ve come across for years.

In gallery one there’s a face-off between Mia Cathcart and Amy Russell, sharing the space, almost in a curatorial confrontation, that balances the styles of the two artists perfectly. And following the exhibition around the maze of The Bridewell, past Lesley James’ untitled body prints that flaunt ghosted images of the human form, past Ali Hutchinson’s expertly captured space (appropriately titled, Space), you are led from work to work through disconnected rooms that make sure you don’t start to confused the differences between the works. Each piece has its very specific area, within a building that can boast an incredible history.

What made this exhibition such a success for me though, was the film work, by James Lockhart and Stephen Sheehan, and their contrast to Gill Donley’s ‘Waiting’, discretely whinging away from the corner, with rising and falling levels of urgency.

Gill Donley’s audio work sits playing from a tiny, very missable, Bose speaker on a table with two school chairs facing it. The story of waiting that drones out of it is told with an unmissable impatience and urgency that seems to rise and fall based on the severity of the topic; waiting for the children in the playground while waiting for death. And that wait seems to be shared with the listener, sat, waiting for the twist, or the punch line that never comes on two uncomfortable seats. It’s a clever and wonderfully unmonumental sound piece, hidden in the corner of an equally cleverly curated exhibition.

The architecture of this building is even brought into question by James Lockhart’s ‘Red then not then red again’. A projection piece that wastes no space at the end of a one hundred and sixty six year old corridor, filling it with waves to display exactly what that wall is not: natural. A wave, displayed on brick, in such a confined way screams of confinement in theory, but in practice opens up the wall to an infinite new world to replace the reality of Kensington that lies beyond.

While the exhibition is strictly to be viewed by appointment only, it is well worth it, especially if you have an interest in these artist already, as a precursor to what will be on offer in a few months’ time when this group conclude their study.

View by appointment only. Phone: 0151 263 6730.