Arts

Conjuntos and No Visible Means of Escape @ Nottingham Castle

Conjuntos by Geoff Diego Litherland captures an astounding mixture of colours, textures and shapes. It is on display in the stairwell leading up to the main gallery, giving it a temporary and out-of-the-way feel, but the viewer is nevertheless drawn in.

The thick paint on this series of oils makes me want to reach out and touch them, in particular ‘Mr Pink’, which brings to mind generously spread pink butter icing. A couple of smaller exhibits resemble heaps of chilli powder and ground cumin on bathroom tiles (‘Piles of Smiles’ and ‘Everyone is a burning sun’). These leave the viewer attempting to construct an underlying logic, and inevitably provoke the question: ‘What constitutes art?’

‘The Fountain of Eternal Life’ appears to display multicoloured dentist’s mirrors growing from its base, layered over a black triangle on brown-painted linen. Rays of multicoloured sunshine scatter themselves across a similar background in ‘A Unifying Theory of Everything’. The dark base adds meaning and an exciting contrast to the colour, leaving other works shallow by comparison.

The artist demonstrates a range of skill through the use of different materials and colours and the inclusion of familiar shapes, and the combination and arrangement of the works contribute to the experience as a whole.

Upstairs in the gallery, the exploration of imprisonment and surveillance in No Visible Means of Escape provides a striking contrast. The contemporary artwork ranges from a white K’Nex-style prison floor-plan (Langlands & Bell, ‘Millbank Penitentiary’) to Paul Granjon’s interactive ‘CCTV Soundscape’, in which visitors can experience the joy of control by directing a camera around a model landscape.

A man with a laptop disconcertingly turns out to be part of Dora García’s ‘Instant Narrative’, in which the actions of visitors are observed and recorded. Although initially unsettling, the visitor is soon tempted to do something different in order to get noticed.

Marc Quinn’s ‘No Visible Means of Escape IV’, which gives its name to the exhibition, is a repulsive rubber sculpture of artist’s own naked body hacked vertically in half and hanging from the ceiling. The empty shell twists eerily as it hangs, disturbingly in the room in which prisoners at the castle were hanged. This juxtaposition of art and history leaves a ghostly impression upon the visitor.

By Ailsa Mitchell

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