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Review: Transparency, Walker Art Gallery

Transparency, Walker Art Gallery
Walker Art Gallery
& Arts Council Collection National Partners exhibition – until 18th June 2017

Words, Leyla Gurr

See through, reflect, encounter outside, figure out and encounter inside

The concept of an exhibition themed around the idea of translucency is an intriguing one to say the least. The idea of art that is entirely clear is, on paper at least, seemingly contradictory of the entire medium after all. And it was with a little trepidation then that I walked through the Walker towards their latest show Transparency, running until the 18th June this year.

Despite the opulence of the setting, most themed shows are set up in the spacious and white-walled rooms that the Walker have reserved for exhibitions, and Transparency is no exception. Heading up the stairs and around to the right, the first area that greets you is an interactive set-up designed to engage the audience. This seems particularly aimed at a younger audience. There are low chairs and tables, space to read books and you are invited to pick from a selection of objects to take with you around the pieces.

These range from mirrors to kaleidoscopes – anything you can see through that could distort the world around you – and are a wonderful idea to enhance the work and make it more of an interactive experience. It would perhaps have benefited from being less segregated from the actual work, I can see shyer children being reluctant to carry things through the doors, but it should work well for school groups lucky enough to be shepherded by particularly enthusiastic teachers.

On through the doors and into the exhibition itself, and a clever use of negative space is the first thing you notice. If the theme is transparency then the rooms themselves go quite far towards promoting this idea. White walls and well-spaced out work help to create a feeling of space and clarity. The pieces are loosely grouped into sub-categories; “See Through, Reflect, Encounter Outside, Figure Out and Encounter Inside”.

Contemporary art mingles well with more traditional pieces and there is a good mix of painting, sculpture and video here. Some examples are a little more on the nose than others theme wise. Hermione Wiltshire’s Introduce in the first room is a particularly effective sculpture mixing photography and a layered clear material, forcing the audience into viewing their own faces whilst attempting to view the work. The idea of translucency is very clearly part of this work. Juxtaposed, is Hannah Collins’ work John Egan’s image: Tongues without Words, in the third room. A large scale and traditional photography piece featuring a simple still life with a disturbing twist. Less clearly linked to the idea as a whole but still intriguing.

The range of artists on display, from established names to up and coming new ones, works well across the board and there is plenty to see.

Walker Art Gallery are universally renowned for their vast collection of paintings, sculpture and decorative artwork. The work housed within its impressive walls ranges from contemporary to classic and if you’ve never been even its standard collection of pieces is worth at least a day of your time. Transparency is an interesting addition to its everyday displays. The resource area is a stand-out idea, which I hope that local schools and learning groups take advantage of. Giving children the opportunity to experience art from different perspectives will always add a bonus to any trip out of class.

Not that this introductory area should dissuade a more mature audience, everything inside is an interesting take on the themes being promoted and enough to engage even the most stoic art critic. With a theme so seemingly hard to grasp by its very nature, variety is key, and there’s plenty here to take in.